A'ja Wilson drops 30 points in Aces' first win of the season
A'ja Wilson drops 30 points in Aces' first win of the season (Credit: )

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LAS VEGAS -- — A'ja Wilson had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and the two-time champion Las Vegas Aces opened their season Tuesday night by holding off a late rally and beating the Phoenix Mercury 89-80. “It's the first game of the season. It looked like it,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. "It'll be all right and we'll smooth some things out." Jackie Young added 23 points for Las Vegas and Kelsey Plum scored 19. Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 23 points, making 7 of 11 3-pointers. Also for Phoenix, Kahleah Copper scored 19 and Natasha Cloud and Rebecca Allen each finished with 14. Before the game, the Aces were given their championship rings and the banner was unveiled, raised and placed next to the 2022 one. Then at the game’s first timeout, the announced sellout crowd of 10,419 was encouraged to sing along with “We are the Champions.” That's the largest-ever crowd for the Aces in Michelob Ultra Arena. Aces minority owner and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce were among those sitting courtside. Wilson said Brady spoke to the team before the game and told the players not to worry about defending the banner, but to “go and do what you've been doing and execute that.” “We still have a lot of work to do,” Wilson said. “We still have a lot of things that we need to hone in on. My message (to the team) was I think we lost sight of it because it’s the first game.” The Aces went on an early 21-3 run to go up 29-11 late in the first quarter with Wilson scoring 17 points, but the Mercury didn't go away quietly. They trailed just 42-41 at halftime, taking advantage of an Aces team that made 1 of 11 3-pointers in the first half. Phoenix made 8 of 17 from long distance. The game remained close until the fourth quarter when the Aces slowly pulled away, taking as much as an 83-71 lead before the Mercury again rallied by scoring nine points in a row to make it a three-point game with 1:17 left. Kiah Stokes and Young then combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line to seal the victory. The Aces made 25 of 29 free throws, compared to 7 of 10 from the Mercury. “Obviously, ring night, they're going to come out and stick it to us, but I thought we hung in there and cut the lead," Taurasi said. "With a minute left, we're down three and then all of the sudden they're at the free throw line again, which wasn't a huge shock for the whole night.” Both teams were short-handed. The Aces were without point guard Chelsea Gray, still recovering from a lower left leg injury suffered in last year's WNBA Finals. Phoenix's Brittney Griner is out indefinitely because of a broken toe. ---- AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball