A’ja Wilson drops 38 and 16 to help Aces sweep Sky

Michael Voepel, ESPN.comSep 17, 2023, 07:41 PM ET

CloseMichael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

A’ja Wilson’s right eye looked a bit swollen, but she was still all smiles after her Las Vegas Aces beat the Chicago Sky 92-70 to move into the WNBA semifinals for the fifth season in a row.

Wilson set a playoff franchise record with 38 points in the game and added 16 rebounds.

“I got popped in the eye underneath the basket,” Wilson said. “I got popped real bad. But it’s good. I can see out of it.”

Wilson and the Aces also have some time to rest and recover, as they don’t play again until hosting Game 1 of the semifinals next Sunday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App). The defending champions never trailed in their 2-0 sweep of Chicago, the first time a WNBA team has done so in a playoff series.

Las Vegas will play the winner of the Dallas Wings versus Atlanta Dream series in the next round. Dallas leads the series 1-0 with Game 2 on Tuesday.

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Wilson, considered one of the top candidates for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, was 15-of-23 (65.2%) from the field while holding the Sky to 3-of-11 shooting (27.3%) when she was the primary defender. She also had four blocks and three steals.

It was Wilson’s third playoff game with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, the most in WNBA history. Injured Aces teammate Candace Parker is the only other WNBA player who has done that at least twice.

“Our defense was where it needed to be, and A’ja Wilson was on another planet,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “She was spectacular on both ends.”

Hammon previously held the franchise record for points in a playoff game, 35, which she set while playing with the San Antonio Stars before they moved to Las Vegas and became the Aces in 2018. Another of Hammon’s franchise records — 114 career playoff assists — was eclipsed Sunday, too, as Chelsea Gray moved to 118 with nine in the victory.

Wilson, who is a two-time MVP, scored as many points in the paint, 24, as the entire Sky team did. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the second time Wilson by herself has equaled or surpassed the opposing team’s paint scoring in a playoff game. The other time was in 2020, when she outscored the Connecticut Sun 24-20 in the paint during the semifinals.

Wilson is the only WNBA player who has done this more than once in the playoffs. Hammon said she plans on giving her players a couple of days off this week as they prepare for the semifinals.

“It’s an interesting schedule,” Hammon said. “I’d much rather be playing in three or four days. But I know the rest will do us well. I just get concerned with maybe a little bit of rust maybe coming into that first quarter of the next round. But we’ll manage it.”

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

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