Aces megastar A’ja Wilson wants to make it clear: She didn’t imply to crash Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird’s birthday celebration.
“I suggest, she invited me to the celebration,” Wilson stated. “I turned into just looking to have some a laugh, lighten it up a bit bit.”
Bird, a five-time Olympic gold medalist who will retire after the season, played her very last regular-season recreation in Seattle on Sunday earlier than a sellout crowd of 18,a hundred at Climate Pledge Arena. But Wilson and the Aces spoiled the guard’s send-off with an 89-81 victory.
“I’m now not going to lie; it kind of sucks to lose my closing recreation,” Bird said. “But, what, I misplaced my first recreation, too. So it’s OK.”
Wilson also concept it was OK.
“This is a huge night for her,” she said. “I’m sure it’s going to stay a massive night for her, and it’s all love, for certain.”
Wilson had 29 factors on thirteen-for-24 taking pictures. Aces defend Kelsey Plum scored 16, consisting of a key 3-pointer overdue in the sport, and wing Jackie Young and point protect Chelsea Gray introduced 15 apiece.
Seattle (20-thirteen) got a sport-excessive 35 factors from superstar forward Breanna Stewart, who hit 10 of 18 photographs, consisting of 4 of 5 on 3-tips. But fellow All-Star Jewell Loyd scored handiest one factor and shot zero of 6.
Bird, who is retiring after 19 WNBA seasons at age forty one, had 9 factors and 6 assists.
“To be so true for so long,” stated Aces train Becky Hammon, an opponent of Bird’s in her first WNBA recreation on May 30, 2002. “A lot of humans you have got nine to ten years of being exquisite. She’s been first-rate for many years.”
The victory snapped the Aces’ -recreation losing streak. They haven’t misplaced extra than consecutive games this season.
The Aces (23-10) return to Michelob Ultra Arena on Tuesday for the first time given that July 23, website hosting the Atlanta Dream at 7 p.m.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s victory:
Hammon changed her starting lineup, bringing two-time sixth participant of the year Dearica Hamby off the bench for the primary time this season. Center Kiah Stokes replaced her within the lineup.
“That’s going to be our lineup going forward,” Hammon stated. “It was pretty much placing Dearica in a few better spots to assist. She’s still going to play a number of mins because she’s this sort of outstanding defender, however we simply wanted to mix it up a touch bit.”
Hamby has struggled because the All-Star destroy. She’s at her first-class jogging as a part of the short break, but the Aces’ protection hasn’t produced as lots of the ones possibilities. Hamby has scored in double figures as soon as on account that July 3 and is 1 of 23 on 3-suggestions because the All-Star damage.
“She changed into honestly super about it, a complete pro,” Hammon said.
Stokes didn’t score, however grabbed a group-exceptional nine rebounds. She additionally had a thieve, a block and 3 assists in 28 mins.
Hamby had six points and 5 rebounds in 17 mins.
The day belonged to Bird, but fanatics additionally got to watch MVP the front-runners Wilson, 26, and Stewart, 27, pass head-to-head.
Wilson was in rhythm from the start, scoring 18 first-1/2 points. No other Aces participant had extra than seven. She particularly shined in the midrange, hitting an array of turnaround jumpers against the vaunted Seattle protection.
“Every time someone involves a game, I need to put on a display,” Wilson stated. “This is my job. I love what I do.”
Stewart erupted inside the second half for 21 points. When she couldn’t discover an open look, she compelled her manner to the free-throw line, where she went 11 of 15.
“I usually love competing in opposition to her,” Wilson stated.
Wilson knew she needed a large performance. In the Aces’ previous game, an 82-80 loss to the Dallas Wings, she ignored a huge-open, sport-tying layup with less than 5 seconds remaining.
“It made my stomach harm,” Wilson stated. “I changed into unwell.”
On Sunday, each time the Storm made a run, the Aces had an answer. Plum had the biggest one, hitting a three from the corner with 34 seconds left for an 88-79 lead.
Gray (nine) and Wilson (six) mixed for 15 of the Aces’ 21 fourth-region factors. Gray brought nine assists, six rebounds and steals for the sport.
“You can’t get too high together with your highs, and you can’t get too low along with your lows,” Wilson stated. “I assume we really just honed in on doing what we do excellent and stayed within ourselves.”
Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at [email protected] Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.
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