A’ja Wilson’s historic performance powers Aces to playoff win over Sky: How Vegas’ star did it

May 28, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Aces forward Aja Wilson (22) competes during the first quarter against the Minnesota Lynx at Michelob Ultra Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
By Ben Pickman and The Athletic Staff
Sep. 17, 2023

Aces star A’ja Wilson put on a record-breaking performance as Las Vegas swept the Chicago Sky in the first round of the WNBA playoffs with a 92-70 win on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Wilson recorded 38 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and four blocks, making her the first player in any WNBA game with a 35/15/3/3 stat line. She achieved the mark while playing only 30 minutes.
  • The two-time MVP also set a franchise record for most points in a playoff game, surpassing her coach Becky Hammon who previously held the top spot in Aces history.
  • Las Vegas beat Chicago 87-59 on Sept. 13 and will now face the winner of the Wings-Dream matchup in the semifinal series beginning Sept. 24.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Breaking down Wilson’s historic night

From the opening minutes of Sunday’s Game 2, Wilson asserted her dominance on both ends of the floor. Offensively, she finished the first quarter with 10 points. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year showed why she might take home that honor for the second consecutive season, as she added three steals and three blocks in the opening frame.


Wilson would go on to make history in Las Vegas’ closeout win over the Sky, setting a franchise record with 38 points. Her point total was also the fourth most of her career, in the regular and postseason combined. According to Across the Timeline, Wilson additionally became just the second player in WNBA playoff history to score 35 or more points without hitting a three-pointer, joining Lisa Leslie, who did so in 2001. Leslie needed nearly 36 minutes to accomplish her feat. Wilson needed only 30 to make history of her own. — Pickman

How do the Aces look compared to other postseason contenders?

Las Vegas looked like the league’s top seed in their opening-round series versus Chicago. Its average margin of victory was 24.5 points. Now, the Aces will wait to see who they will play in the second round.

They will face the winner of the Atlanta DreamDallas Wings series. Dallas, despite falling behind by 20 points in the first quarter of Game 1, took the series-opener on Friday night. Game 2 is set for Tuesday.



Dream's Howard sets WNBA playoff debut record

On Sunday, the Minnesota Lynx evened their series with the Connecticut Sun, after dropping Game 1 by 30 points. Guard Kayla McBride led the Lynx with 28 points while forward Napheesa Collier added 26. Game 3 of that series will be Wednesday, in Minneapolis.

The winner of that series will play the winner of the New York Liberty-Washington Mystics series. New York used a 21-9 run midway through the third quarter to take control of Game 1. The Liberty would go on to win 90–75. — Pickman

Required reading

(Photo:  Lucas Peltier / USA Today)

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