September 17, 2023 - 2:12 pm
Updated September 17, 2023 - 5:35 pm
Alysha Clark has made a career out of playing with superstars. After more than a decade in the WNBA, she can count former MVPs Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne among her former teammates.
On Sunday, Clark reaffirmed that reigning MVP A’ja Wilson is one of the best players she’s ever shared the court with after watching Wilson score 38 points, a franchise postseason record, to lead the top-seeded Aces past the No. 8 Chicago Sky 92-70.
“The way she approaches the game, her humility, her competitiveness, her fire and just the way she’s selfless, that’s something that I think is overlooked with superstars,” Clark said.
Wilson led the Aces into the WNBA semifinals in front of 9,000 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena, finishing a first-round sweep of the Sky with a resounding Game 2 victory. Wilson also registered 16 rebounds and four blocks to finish the game plus-31 during 30 minutes of play.
The Aces will next play the winner of the first-round series between the No. 4 Dallas Wings and the No. 5 Atlanta Dream. The Wings hold a 1-0 lead, with Game 2 at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Arlington, Texas.
The Aces will host Game 1 of the semifinals Sept. 24.
“I just need to get the job done for my teammates because I owe that to them,” Wilson said.
Aces All-Star wing Jackie Young scored 15, and Clark poured in 14. All-Star guard Chelsea Gray dished nine assists to reach 118 playoff assists with the Aces, passing coach Becky Hammon (114) for the most playoff assists in franchise history.
All-Star wing Kahleah Copper scored 25 points for the Sky, and reserve guard Dana Evans contributed 22 points.
Here are three takeaways from game:
1. Wilson’s record day
In a game in which the Aces’ starting perimeter players went 11 of 38 on field goals, Wilson carried the scoring load. She went 15 of 23 from the floor and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.
The only blemish on her performance was a literal one, after Wilson appeared to catch an elbow to the face while fighting for an offensive rebound. She said she was fine after the game.
Her 38-point performance was a career-high playoff mark, surpassing her 34-point outing against the Seattle Storm in Game 3 of the 2022 semifinals. She also set the franchise’s single-game postseason scoring record, breaking another record formerly held by Hammon, who scored 35 points against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sept. 28, 2008.
“She was spectacular tonight,” Hammon said.
2. Clark’s scoring returns
The Aces signed Clark because of her defense and versatility, traits that have made her into one of the leading sixth player of the year candidates.
However, Clark’s scoring has returned for the playoffs. She reached double figures in both games against the Sky, and is averaging 13.5 points per game in the playoffs, an improvement on her 6.5 points per game during the regular season.
Hammon praised Clark’s interior scoring, in particular, and said the veteran wing always has the green light to shoot.
“She’s a true inside-out player,” Hammon said.
3. Defense shines again
The Aces didn’t hold the Sky to the superb shooting splits they managed in Game 1, but Hammon’s team still showed up defensively in Game 2.
Chicago committed 18 turnovers, which the Aces turned into 15 points. Four starters had multiple steals, led by Young and Wilson, who had three each.
During the first three quarters, Chicago shot just 34.8 percent on field goals and 28.6 percent from 3, while Sky guard Courtney Williams was held below double figures for a second consecutive game.