Young beats buzzer, Aces defeat Storm in OT to take series lead in WNBA semifinals
Parker helps defending champion Sky beat Sun for 2-1 lead in best-of-5 series
Before she tried encapsulating one of the more memorable WNBA playoff games, Becky Hammon let out a little chuckle.
"That was a hell of a game. I don't know if I've ever been a part of something like that," the Las Vegas Aces coach said.
Hammon could speak with a mix of excitement and relief after the Aces pulled out a wild 110-98 overtime in over the Seattle Storm in Game 3 of their WNBA playoff semifinal series on Sunday.
Jackie Young sent the game to overtime with a buzzer-beating basket, and then Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum hit big shots in the extra session as Las Vegas took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
"We live for these moments. You work hard for these bright light games and just staying in it and understanding that we've worked hard to get to where we are," said Aces' star A'ja Wilson, who finished with a playoff career-high 34 points.
The end of regulation will rightfully get most of the attention. But Las Vegas was dominant in overtime, outscoring Seattle 18-6.
Gray had been quiet in the fourth quarter but scored eight of her 29 points in overtime including a pair of 3s that silenced Storm fans that had been roaring only a few minutes earlier when it appeared Seattle was on the cusp of winning the pivotal game.
But then <a href="https://twitter.com/JackieYoung3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JackieYoung3</a> ties it up at 92 to force OT in Game 3 🤯 <a href="https://t.co/w25BD6InxV">pic.twitter.com/w25BD6InxV</a>—@WNBA
"There was so many back and forth [moments], `Oh they're gonna win it, oh no they're gonna win it, oh we're going to overtime.' That's what playoff basketball is all about. It felt good," Gray said.
From the Seattle perspective, it never should have reached overtime.
Seattle led 92-90 with 0.8 seconds left in regulation after Bird hit a corner 3. It was a storybook moment to be another highlight in Bird's final season before retiring.
But on the ensuing inbounds play, Young got free from Ezi Magbegor and scored in the lane ahead of the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
SHE'S ON FIIIIRE 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/Zh7aZv78YF">pic.twitter.com/Zh7aZv78YF</a>—@WNBA
"It was really frustrating. We had the game and we gave it to them and that's really it," Seattle's Breanna Stewart said.
Gray added 12 assists and Riquna Williams added a key 14 points off the bench. Plum had 16 points, including an important three-point play to start overtime for the Aces.
Stewart led Seattle with 20 points, while Bird and Jewell Loyd both had 17. Tina Charles added 16 points but missed a pair of free throw with 7.2 seconds remining in regulation that could have given Seattle a three-point lead.
The second half was filled with wild emotional swings and a conclusion to regulation that featured one big play after another. The final 11 seconds featured 10 points scored.
"We were up four with not a lot of time left and that's really, to me, where we lost the game," Bird said.
'It's on me'
Seattle led 89-85 when Williams hit a 3 with 8.9 seconds left for Las Vegas. Charles missed her two foul shots and Wilson put Las Vegas ahead 90-89 with a spinning drive in the lane with 2.2 seconds left, although it appeared she got away with taking extra steps.
Then it was Seattle's turn to have an apparent winner on Bird's 3 off an inbound pass when she came open in the corner in front of the Seattle bench. Bird even left her hand in the air as Seattle's home building roared.
But all that was muted moments later when Young cut to the basket and scored ahead of the buzzer.
The Aces victory also moved Bird one step closer to retirement. Bird has announced this will be her final season, and Las Vegas can send her off into retirement as one of the greatest players in league history with a victory in Game 4.
Seattle lost a home playoff game with Stewart healthy for the first time. The Storm were 10-0 previously. ... In the 14 previous series tied at 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series eight times. The Aces have reached the WNBA Finals twice in franchise history, once in 2020 in the WNBA bubble and in 2008 when the team was in San Antonio.
Game 4 will be Tuesday night with Las Vegas looking to advance to the finals.
Sky closing in on return to WNBA Finals
With the game in the balance, Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky turned up their defence and came away with a gritty win to move within one victory of returning to the WNBA Finals for a second straight year.
Parker had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Kahleah Copper added 15 points and the Sky beat the Connecticut Sun 76-72 Sunday in Game 3 of the WNBA playoff semifinals. The Sky lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
"Down the stretch we were able to play [to our strengths]," said Parker, who tied Tamika Catchings for most double-doubles in the playoffs with 27. "I think the biggest thing is sometimes in years past, we would play great defence and give up the offensive board. Tonight we were able to finish the play."
Copper's 3-pointer with 6:14 left gave Chicago a 66-64 lead. Then offense was hard to come by: Neither team scored for nearly 4 minutes until Emma Meesseman hit a jumper in the corner to extend the lead to four with 2:26 left.
Connecticut missed eight shots in a row over that scoreless span until Courtney Williams hit a jumper 40 seconds later.
"It was 66-64 forever," Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. "I wondered if one team would have an offensive run. It was to the point where if a team could put back to back baskets together, they would have all sorts of momentum. ... We just couldn't put together that offensive run when we needed it."
Chicago scored the next four points with two free throws by Copper and a layup by Meesseman that made it 72-66 with under a minute left. Connecticut got back within two with 22 seconds left on two free throws by Bonner, but Parker made two free throws 7 seconds later.
Another view of the NASTYYY block by <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a> 🥵<br><br>It's coming down to the wire right now on ESPN2 <a href="https://t.co/60hycJ6kBG">pic.twitter.com/60hycJ6kBG</a>—@WNBA
Bonner then missed a 3 and Connecticut was done. She finished with 18 points to lead the Sun, who had 17 turnovers.
"We have to play on on what we build on throughout the season," Chicago coach James Wade said. "Playing together throughout adversity, we did a good job of it. We didn't haven't many lulls. we were up for the challenge and came out victorious."
The teams went back and forth in the second quarter with Chicago going up 40-38 at the half. Parker had 12 points and six rebounds in the opening half. Natisha Hiedeman had 12 points for Connecticut.
Chicago led 56-55 after three periods, as neither team could get more than a seven-point lead heading into the final period.
Meesseman had five steals and six assists to go along with 13 points.
Parker took a shot to the left eye 3 minutes into the game and briefly left to the locker room. She returned about a minute later but had a noticeable bump over her eye.
"It's fine, I can see," Parker said after the game.