May 27, 2024

LAS VEGAS — A’ja Wilson really wanted to be just the second player to win the WNBA’s MVP award in back-to-back seasons. But after a third-place finish in an incredibly tight vote, she said going into Game 2 of the Las Vegas Aces‘ semifinal series with the Dallas Wings that MVP was not a focus.

“This award, it’s a cherry on top of all the mountain of ice cream that we’ve built up,” Wilson said of the defending champion Aces’ success. “The sundae is still good without the cherry. This team still has so much more to do.”

Las Vegas took another step toward that Tuesday night with a 91-84 victory in front of a Michelob Ultra Arena crowd that frequently chanted “MVP” in support of Wilson. She had 30 points and 11 rebounds, becoming the first player in WNBA history to score at least 30 in three consecutive postseason games.

The Aces lead the series 2-0.

“This is playoff basketball; these are the moments that we play for,” Wilson said. “People want to hear: ‘Oh, [not winning MVP] is going to fuel her.’ But I’ve been fueled since I stepped foot in this league.”

The No. 1 draft pick in 2018 for the Aces, Wilson was named MVP in 2020 and 2022. Her stats across the board were better this season than last, but the honor went to the New York Liberty‘s Breanna Stewart, with the Connecticut Sun‘s Alyssa Thomas finishing second. The Liberty and Sun are tied 1-1 going into their Game 3 on Friday in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, the Aces are hoping for a sweep as they head to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App). The Wings made Game 2 closer than Game 1, which the Aces won by 14 points. But Las Vegas still had the ultimate trump card in Wilson.

“All year, she’s been exceptional,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “She got better in the offseason. She’s just special.”

Hammon wasn’t critical of Stewart or Thomas in any way but made it abundantly clear she thought Wilson should have been MVP. Hammon pointed out that Wilson played fewer minutes than the others did, in part because the No. 1 seed Aces didn’t have as many close games in their 34-6 season.

“I’m ride or die with A’ja, and that’s not just on the court but as a person,” Hammon said. “She’s as rock-solid a superstar as you can coach. She’s tough, and she’s built for moments like this.”

“This is playoff basketball; these are the moments that we play for. People want to hear: ‘Oh, [not winning MVP] is going to fuel her.’ But I’ve been fueled since I stepped foot in this league.”

A’ja Wilson

Wilson, who was 10-of-18 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line, is one game away from tying Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale and former Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore‘s record for the longest streak of 30-point games in either the regular season or the playoffs.

Moore had four such games in a row in 2014, and Ogunbowale did the same in 2019. Both were in the regular season.

Ogunbowale led Dallas with 24 points on Tuesday, with Natasha Howard adding 20. The Wings got a slight edge in rebounding, 40-39, and pushed the game to the closing minutes. But it still wasn’t enough against Wilson and the Aces, who also got 23 points from Chelsea Gray and 18 from Kelsey Plum.

“We played a great game, and it was a good win that we needed,” Wilson said. “We grinded it out. A lot of people wish they were where we are today. I am grateful to be in this space, to play alongside amazing athletes. I try to fuel my team with energy. We’re playing basketball the way that we should.”

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

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