The Aces Showed Their Extra Gear In Blowout Win Over Caitlin Clark And The Fever

LAS VEGAS — For the last two seasons, the Las Vegas Aces have been the No. 1 topic in the WNBA. Of course, that happens when a team wins back-to-back titles in impressive fashion, but there was considerable anticipation for Saturday’s matchup between the Aces and the Indiana Fever, featuring No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark. For most of the first half, the two teams put on a show, and the Fever seemed to build on their first win of the season on Friday evening. However, Las Vegas was the fresher, more talented team in this battle, pulling away en route to a 99-80 victory.

Indiana performed well at the outset, particularly on the offensive end. Kelsey Mitchell and Clark converted back-to-back three-pointers to give the Fever a narrow lead midway through the opening period.

On the other side, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young had it going for the Aces. Plum and Young each scored nine points in the first quarter, contributing to a break-neck overall pace.

All told, the two teams combined for 52 points and 51.4 percent shooting in the first quarter, with sky-high transition frequency and pace contributing to entertaining play. Indiana took its largest lead of the half at 32-26 early in the second quarter but, from there, the rest of the half belonged to Las Vegas.

The Aces clamped down defensively, holding the Fever to only four points in almost seven full minutes. The end result was a 20-4 extended run to give Las Vegas an eight-point advantage into halftime after holding Indiana to 4-of-15 shooting with five turnovers in the period.

After an ugly offensive quarter in the second, Indiana found a different gear coming out of the locker room. The Fever scored the first five points of the second half and generated 11 points in fewer than three minutes to climb within a four of the defending champs.

On the other end, however, Las Vegas continued to light it up. The Aces produced 12 points of their own in the first three minutes, actually lengthening the lead. The trio of Plum, Young, and A’ja Wilson scored 55 of the team’s first 58 points, striking an impressive tone.

While the Aces had already asserted some level of control, Las Vegas truly throttled Indiana with a run down the stretch of the third quarter. Over the final 5:51 of the period, the Aces out-scored the Fever by a 14-5 margin, and Las Vegas received supporting contributions from Alysha Clark and former Iowa standout Kate Martin.

The fourth quarter was more of the same, with the Aces leading by as many as 23 points and removing their stars with approximately four minutes to go in the game. While the schedule was objectively favorable to Las Vegas given a significant rest advantage, it was also clear that the Aces remain a step (or two) ahead of a team like Indiana.

Wilson finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds, dominating the game with impressive and notable consistency. Plum was dynamic throughout the game, breaking the paint with regularity and forcing Indiana to react without the ability to stay in front. Despite a shaky 7-of-18 shooting night, Plum finished with 20 points and seven assists, with Young playing tremendous defense and adding 22 points and six assists.

For the Fever, there were some notable highs, especially on offense, but after a strong start, it is possible that tired legs caught up to a team that played a high-octane game on Friday in Los Angeles. Clark is certainly experiencing the growing pains normally associated with the transition to the professional game and she was never able to get fully comfortable on the way to eight points, seven assists, and six turnovers. Clark did have moments, including some “wow” passes, but she and Aliyah Boston (12 points, six rebounds) were merely solid, rather than spectacular, and both players needed to be better to pull off what would’ve been a considerable upset on the road.

Three meetings remain this season between the Aces and Fever, with the two on Indiana’s home court not coming until September. However, a July 2 rematch in Las Vegas should garner significant attention, with the game moving across the Strip to T-Mobile Arena in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd. On Saturday, the split between the Aces, even without Chelsea Gray, and the Fever was present and prominent, and while it was only one data point, it was perhaps a reminder to anyone who needed it that the Aces have a gear few other teams can reach.