The Las Vegas Aces reigned supreme Wednesday night at home in Michelob ULTRA arena, where the team beat out the Seattle Storm 94-83. Jackie Young was on fire throughout the night, scoring 32 points. She made 11 of her 19 field goal attempts, two of her six three-pointers, and all eight of her free throws. 

“She was cookin',” Coach Becky Hammon said at the post-game conference on Wednesday. “(She) just had a really clean floor game on both ends for her.” 

The team's unwavering energy could be felt from the jump. But the moment Aces star point guard Chelsea Gray threw off her warm-up gear on the sidelines was enchanting, as a crowd of more than ten thousand went wild. 

“It was great, man. Just a rush and a feeling I've missed a lot,” Gray said in the post-game conference.  “It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But, the fans they were amazing,” Gray said.

“She's a team leader,” Hammon said. “I know if there's a threat of an opening, she's going to get it to them. So, it's a really luxury to have her on the court,” Hammon said.

It was clear that her presence was missed and it couldn't have come at a better time. The back-to-back champions have been off to a slow start, losing five of their eight season games. Wednesday's win comes after an upsetting 90-82 loss to the New York Liberty.  

On Wednesday, Las Vegas began one of the most challenging stretches of the season with games against the Storm and the Connecticut Sun, arguably two of the best teams in the league this season. Seattle has won eight of its last home games but dropped most recently against Phoenix. Still, the Storm has the third-most efficient defense in the WNBA, a sore spot for the Aces. 

But, to help with defense, Gray came through with the assists, offering seven with four rebounds and two blocks, helping do what she does best: move the ball. But really, it was a team effort. The synchrony was back. Coach Hammon has repeatedly mentioned rotations as a factor in some of the team's recent losses. Wednesday night, it was apparent the team took heed of this and made some changes. 

“Everybody was very physical, communicating, everybody was just locked in. If we defend, we're really hard to beat,” Gray said. 

“There was a sense of urgency, and that's what we need. It really starts with that pressure up top,” Hammon said. 

As always, MVP A'ja Wilson showed up and showed out, even if it was a little late in the game. Wilson is leading the WNBA in scoring and rebounding. On Wednesday, the Aces star scored 27 points, continuing her stretch of 20+ point games. She's done it again and again for 18 straight regular season games. 

Kesley Plum put up 11 points, followed by Tiffany Hayes and Alysha Clark with 10. 

Aces star Chelsea Gray returns

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) celebrates during the first half against the Dallas Wings during game three of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs at College Park Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Excitement about Gray's return could be felt throughout the arena on and off the court on Wednesday. It's the first time Gray, aka the “Point Gawd,” has played all season. Gray suffered a lower leg injury during Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA finals. Las Vegas was in a heated battle with the New York Liberty to snatch the ring and claim victory when Gray was injured while defending Breanna Stewart. 

She was seen limping to the back and didn't return for the remainder of the game. The Aces lost that game against the Lib but had the last laugh when they became the 2023 WNBA champs. But, Gray would remain out on injury for training camp and into the beginning of this season. 

Last week, the 2024 Paris Olympic roster was announced. Gray, Wilson, Plum, and Young were on it. It was a pleasant surprise that certainly raised a few eyebrows.

This wouldn't be the first time Gray would play in the Olympics. She made her Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 assists per game. But, with her not playing all season it wasn't clear if she would be ready for the Olympics. Obviously she is. 

The announcement was the first indicator that the Point Gawd was making a return. The Aces camp updated Gray's injury status the following day ahead of Las Vegas' matchup with the Mercury. But there was no clear indication when she would return. 

Teammates Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum have stepped in a big way in Gray's absence. 

“This is definitely a different role for me,” Young said Thursday after the 103-99 victory over the Mercury. 

“The ball's in my hands a lot more. So, just trying to make the right decision, make the right reads whether that's me scoring or getting my teammates involved.” 

She didn't let up the gas in Wednesday night's game, and it showed. 

In Gray's absence, the Aces were second in pace. But after tonight's game, I'm sure that will change. Multiple key assists helped keep up the pace and the ball in the right hands to make the buckets happen. The rotations and assists, both on offense and defense, felt like a breath of fresh air for the Las Vegas Aces, who've been in a stale, funky state. 

In her season debut, Gray made an immediate impact with a pass to Alysha Clark, marking her 1500th assists of her career. A slick no-look behind the back pass to Young in the first quarter was a clear indicator: The Point Gawd is back. 

“She should've laid it up,” Gray jokingly said while sitting next to Young in the post-game press conference. 

“They knew that ball was coming. I do it in practice. As soon as she got there, I knew she was about to back cut.” 

“I'm great. I'm good to go,” Gray said in the post-game conference after Wednesday's victory. 

Winning spirit 

The ball movement throughout the night led to multiple back-to-back buckets for Young and Wilson. The 2x WNBA Defensive Player of the Year scooped up nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals. She bought the block party to the Michelob ULTRA arena on Wednesday with two blocks. She ranks second for blocks in the league. 

The two-time MVP warmed up late in the game but right on time. The burst of energy almost appeared to come out of nowhere. Wilson led all fourth-quarter scorers with 16 points. 

On multiple occasions, Young, the “Silent Assassin,” straight-drove the ball to the basket on her own.

“That girl good,” Gray jokingly said a few times during Wednesday's press conference. 

While members of the team have said the team's fate doesn't rest on the shoulders of the Point Gawd. That's true. It's appears that with her back in play, the old gang is back together. 

“I'm passing to really great targets, so they're going to make themselves available, and they know I'll give them the rock as soon as possible,” Gray said after the win against Seattle.  

The Aces now hold an all-time 45-44 edge over the Storm in regular-season play. As the team prepares to play another tough team on Friday, any edge is needed. But, the Point Gawd may be just the edge they need to climb back to the top and take the three-peat. 

The Aces remain home for the remainder of the week to play the Connecticut Sun at Michelob Ultra Arena. The tip-off is at 6:30 PM PT.