The Las Vegas Aces were tested more than they expected for the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of their first-round series on Wednesday night, but they ended up winning 79-63 in the fourth quarter .
Neither team could make any progress offensively for much of the game, and the under-staffed Mercury was able to linger in such a low-scoring game. Both teams broke double digits in the third quarter, with the Aces leading by just two at the start of the fourth.
However, the Aces’ high-intensity offense finally woke up in the closing stages as they beat Mercury 26-12 in the final 7:15. Kelsey Plum led the scoring with 22 points and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Chelsea Gray, who led the fourth-quarter surge, finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists .
Diamond DeShields had 18 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Sophie Cunningham and Megan Gustafson each had 12 points.
Here are some key takeaways from the game:
Grey takes the lead in the fourth quarter
In In the final game of the regular season, Chelsea Gray had a career-high 33 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists to lead the Aces to a comeback victory over the Seattle Storm. Thanks to Gray’s heroics, the Aces secured the top seed in the playoffs and maintained home-court advantage throughout.
Turns out there are more sources. While Gray didn’t put up amazing stats in the first game, she again played a key role in the crunch time. Gray took over as the Aces held a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
First, she drove in the door and fouled Megan Gustafson, which escalated to a rough 1. Gray blocked Gustafson’s face afterward, and the incident – albeit perhaps a bit contrived all along – set a fire in the Gray and Aces crowd.
After the review, Gray made two free throws as it was a serious foul and the Aces kept the ball. In the ensuing game, Gray made a 3-pointer. The next time Aces got the ball, she hit a stepback jumper, then added another a few possessions later.
Gray scored nine points in three minutes to boost the Aces’ lead to double digits and ensure no more upsets on the first day of the WNBA playoffs. In one of her classic all-around performances, Gray finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists on 6-of-9 shooting from the field.
Peddy’s injury is another blow to Mercury
At the end of the third quarter, Mercury guard Shey Peddy fell to the ground in severe pain in a non-contact Play. Replays showed her right leg giving way as she planted a cut and she had to be lifted off the floor by Reshanda Gray while the rest of her teammates nearly cried.
Mercury announced that Peddie will miss the remainder of the game with a calf injury, without any further details released. Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygard said Peddie needs “further evaluation.” However, apparently, judging by the mechanics of the injury, the way Peddie immediately grabbed her Achilles and her inability to put any weight on her leg, it could be that her Achilles ruptured.
Either way, it’s another big blow for a Mercury team that’s been through so much this season. Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges and later sentenced to nine years in prison; Tina Charles left the team abruptly mid-season; Diana Taurasi suffered a season-ending limb injury; Skylar Diggins-Smith left the ball for personal reasons team. You can tell how painful it was for Mercury to see another of their teammates go down.
From a strictly on-court perspective, Peddie has been playing some great basketball the past few weeks as she helps fill the void. This season, she is averaging career highs of 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Losing her will make them less likely to feel depressed.