PHOENIX -- It looked as though the Aces would be fighting to avoid elimination when Brittney Griner, center for the Phoenix Mercury, hit a baby hook 36 seconds into the third period to bring them within three points of the Las Vegas Aces.
After Liz Cambage made a jumper, Chelsea Gray scored five consecutive points to start a 24-0 run that decimated the Mercury on their home court. The Aces won the season-saving game 93-76. They returned to Sin City, forcing a Game 5 on Friday (9:00 p.m.). ET, ESPN2/ESPN App with a spot for the WNBA Finals.
The Aces were able to dampen the electric atmosphere at the Footprint Center in Phoenix within 6 minutes, 39 seconds. It happened so quickly and so efficiently that even Bill Laimbeer, Las Vegas coach, didn't know his team had scored 24 points. This was the longest consecutive scoring streak by a team facing elimination, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"That's it? A 24-0 run?" Laimbeer stated after the game. "Wow!"
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi couldn’t believe it either.
"What was it?" She asked. "I didn’t know it was happening." We didn't lock in or do the things we did in the two previous games.
Laimbeer sensed that the Mercury was suffering during the run.
They missed some shots. "We pushed the ball to score easy baskets, and we got some steals for layups. They kind of put their heads down a bit at that point," Laimbeer said. The Aces had lost two consecutive games in the series, having won Game 1. It happens throughout the game. It happened to them. It flows and ebbs. It's a matter of stopping the runs. Tonight, we were able keep the run going.
It was impossible for Mercury to stop it. They couldn't contain it.
Gray scored five points. Aces guard Riquna Wilkins, Aces' point guard, added 11 points during the run. She also made three 3-pointers. Cambage scored four. Each Kelsey Plum or Kiah Stokes had a basket.
It was down 27 before Phoenix realized it. There was still more than a quarter of the market.
"In times like those, they're making shots. You get disheartened. But we got to fight a little more," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello stated. "That's what we didn't see out there. Then we take some poor shots down the other side or get turnovers. We didn't play well and it was a difficult night at work.
Plum stated that the Aces did everything they could against an offense that -- Phoenix shooting 41.3 percent Wednesday -- could soon find its way.
Plum stated, "It was for us just like, Your foot's on gas, it's going to stay on the gas." "They're too great of a team to let us stop and allow them back in. So I thought it was cool to see our foot on gas."
The Aces are now just one win away of reaching the WNBA Finals for a second consecutive season.
They wouldn't be here without some hard work from Laimbeer. Laimbeer, who had just beaten the Aces by 27 points in Game 3 and was unable to stop Laimbeer from taking control of Monday's film sessions from the assistants, didn't hesitate.
He said, "I ran that film." He said that he had run the film. What is it? What is it? And why aren't we walking?
"Everything about that film shoot was somber."
Gray was called out by Laimbeer, who told Gray that she wasn’t being aggressive enough. Wednesday saw her score a game-high 22 point, including 4 of 7 3-pointers. She had six assists, three of which were during the Aces' pivotal run.
Laimbeer was able to see the heads of his players after the film session.
Plum described the experience of watching the film as "humbling."
She added that "you never want to lose energy." It's embarrassing for a professional. We had the energy tonight."
"They realized they weren't putting in the effort." He said it was clear in the film. "Tonight, they made amends and we completed the job."