LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kelsey Plum had 22 points, Chelsea Gray scored nine of her 17 points in the fourth quarter and the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces beat the short-handed Phoenix Mercury 79-63 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the WNBA playoffs.
Las Vegas created some separation with a five-point possession midway through the fourth quarter for a 60-51 lead. Gray was fouled on a drive to the basket and the officials upgraded it to a flagrant on Megan Gustafson. Gray made both free throws and followed with a 3-pointer.
Gray made it 66-55 after spinning her defender in the lane and making a jumper from the free-throw line as Las Vegas took control.
Jackie Young added 16 points for Las Vegas, which hosts Phoenix on Saturday in Game 2 of the best-of-three series. A’ja Wilson had eight points and 12 rebounds and Kiah Stokes had eight points and 13 boards.
No. 8 seed Phoenix was without stars Diana Taurasi (quad) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal reasons), and the Mercury lost another starter in the third quarter. Shey Peddy needed to be carried off the floor with 2:03 remaining in the third after a non-contact injury. Peddy’s teammates were visibly emotional as Peddy went to the locker room with a towel covering her face.
Diamond DeShields had 18 points and eight rebounds for Phoenix. Brianna Turner grabbed 16 rebounds and Gustafson scored 12 points.
Both teams struggled on the offensive end in the third quarter. The teams combined for just seven points in the opening six minutes as Phoenix missed nine straight shots and Las Vegas seven. Wilson made the Aces’ first field goal of the fourth quarter with 7:15 left for a 55-51 lead.
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