Chicago Sun-Times


Superstar Wilson has Aces one win away from first championsh­ip


A’ja Wilson has been the face of the Las Vegas Aces franchise ever since she was picked No. 1 in 2018.

She has lived up to that billing on and off the court, and now she has the team one victory away from the organizati­on’s first WNBA championsh­ip. Las Vegas leads the best-offive series 2-0 heading into Game 3 against the Sun on Thursday night in Connecticu­t.

“She gets it. She understand­s leadership,” first-year Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “I was watching like everybody else was watching from afar. She’s got beast skills. She’s a beast human. She’s a good one. I’ll go to battle with her any day.”

Wilson has been nearly unstoppabl­e this season on both ends of the court, winning both the WNBA’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. It’s the second MVP award for the 26-year-old forward, who has raised her game to another level in the playoffs. She is the first player in league history to have five consecutiv­e games of 20 points and 10 rebounds in the WNBA playoffs.

“You can say it’s a run but she’s just done that all season,” Aces teammate Kelsey Plum said. “I felt like she’s been the most consistent player night in, night out offensivel­y and defensivel­y in this league and that’s why she’s MVP. It’s tremendous.”

It’s not just on offense. In one sequence in Game 1 of the Finals, she blocked a shot on one end and then sprinted down the court to convert a layup on the other side.

“We talk about her numbers offensivel­y but she’s holding it down in the paint defensivel­y. Like a two-way player through and through,” Aces guard Chelsea Gray said. “Rebounding, snatching her rebounds, blocking shots, having our back when I get beat. So like all that, and she’s doing production on the offensive end.”

Hammon has been riding her young star throughout the playoffs. She played all but four minutes in the semifinal win over Seattle that knocked out WNBA icons Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. She has played 296 of the 325 minutes in the postseason so far, averaging 21.6 points and 10.8 rebounds with 24 blocks. She’s also shooting nearly 58% from the field.

Beyond the stats, Wilson also has been more comfortabl­e in a leadership role this season. She exhorted her teammates in Game 1 when the Sun were making a run. She cussed out Plum before Game 2 to get her going.

“I have ways that I talk to my teammates to get them to understand where I need to be and where we need to be,” Wilson said. “Yeah, I cussed her out.”

Being the face of a franchise is nothing new for Wilson. She led her hometown South Carolina Gamecocks to the school’s first NCAA championsh­ip in 2017, and now a statue of her stands in front of the arena.

One more win in the Finals and there might be one in Las Vegas soon as well.

 ?? ETHAN MILLER/ GETTY IMAGES ?? The Aces’ A’ja Wilson has rarely left the court this postseason.
ETHAN MILLER/ GETTY IMAGES The Aces’ A’ja Wilson has rarely left the court this postseason.

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