The Wings did everything they could against the Aces in Game 3 – until they didn’t.
Playing with purpose and determination fueled Dallas early in the first half, finding value in the little things that were lacking in the two games previously. Every move was intentional as players rallied to the ball at a moment’s notice.
Intensity on both ends of the court, ramping up the pace of play, and making the most out of what the defense gives. This was the embodiment of Game 3, and it was everything Wings’ head coach Latricia Trammell said she needed to see more consistently in order to make this a series.
The Aces started the game 7-of-10, then went 0-for-8 as the Wings’ game plan was working to perfection. Getting back on defense, especially in transition, played a humongous role in keeping star forward A’ja Wilson at bay as she attempted a first-half series-low four shots.
Easy blow-byes and rim runs make the game flow so easily for Wilson and the Aces’ process, which is exactly what the Wings aimed to disrupt, and did so successfully. The Aces missed 15 of 19 shots taken from the start of the first quarter until halfway through the second where Sixth Player of the Year recipient Alysha Clark ended the cold spell with a much-needed three-pointer.
At the start of the third quarter, the Aces got back to the steadiness that’s carried them all season. Amid outscoring the Wings 18-to-15 in the period, Las Vegas went on a 13-2 run whereas Dallas went 0-for-8 in the same stretch.
Still, with 2.7 seconds left in the fourth, Dallas had a chance to keep their season alive. The Aces were up by three after Jackie Young nailed two free throws to extend their lead. Veronica Burton grabbed the ball from the official on the far sideline as the Wings ran their play. Arike Ogunbowale got the ball on the wing, took a dribble towards the corner, and put up a prayer.
That prayer went unanswered and there’s your ballgame. The Wings had their best performance in the best-of-five WNBA Semifinals Friday. But it wasn’t enough as Las Vegas swept Dallas and advanced to the Finals.
To hang with the reigning champions requires perfection and after going scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter with the season on the line, it was clear that Dallas wasn’t capable of it.
Two things can be true. While Vegas’ defense was as great as we’ve seen all season, the Wings did themselves no favors with the shot diet displayed in the clutch. Dallas’ 64-61 loss in Game 3 eliminated them from the playoffs and ended a season fraught with trials and tribulations from the very beginning. The 2023 season was a success in various forms, yet the off-season will determine just how ready this team is as far as returning to this level of play in 2024.