Becky Hammon expects all her records to fall to the players she’s coaching. She says that’s how it should be.
With 4:24 remaining in the third quarter of the Aces’ 86-65 win over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, A’ja Wilson made a mid-range jump shot a few feet behind the free-throw line.
The basket represented the 3,475th points of her career, and made Wilson the second-leading scorer in Aces’ franchise history. She surpassed Hammon, who scored 3,474 points during her Hall of Fame career with the San Antonio Stars, the Aces’ predecessor.
Sophia Young-Malcolm is the franchise’s all-time leader with 4,300 points.
“You want these players to eclipse you and be better than you,” Hammon said. “I’ll be at every one of their Hall of Fame (enshrinement ceremonies), standing there super proud of them because they advance it for the next group.”
Added Wilson: “To have my name up there alongside her, it’s been a lot of fun to see.”
Wilson helped the Aces (27-3) pull away for the win over the Dream (15-16) on Sunday in front of 8,564 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena. The reigning WNBA MVP scored 21 points and had nine rebounds, five steals and two blocks to keep the Aces undefeated at home.
All-Star wing Jackie Young added 17 points and was a game-best plus-21 in more than 34 minutes for the Aces. All-Star guards Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum each scored 13, and reserve center Cayla George had a season-high 11 points.
“It was a grind-it-out game for us,” Hammon said. “It wasn’t pretty. They didn’t shoot it pretty. We didn’t shoot it pretty. But we found ways to win and get separation.”
All-Star wing Allisha Gray had 19 points for the Dream, who have lost seven straight on the road. Atlanta shot 37.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3.
The Aces will host the New York Liberty in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. George shines
The Australian center’s minutes have been anything but consistent this season, as George struggled to break into the rotation when Candace Parker was healthy. Since Parker underwent surgery on her fractured left foot, Hammon has played smaller lineups, giving more minutes to wings Alysha Clark and Kierstan Bell.
George got another chance and seized it against the Dream. She was plus-12 in 21 minutes, the most she’s played in a game for the Aces.
Her 3-point shooting was particularly valuable. George went 3-for-5 from 3 on a night when the Aces made just seven shots from beyond the arc. Two of her 3s came just before halftime to help the Aces take a 36-30 lead into the break.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” George said. “I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve been a professional since I was 16, 17 years old. I just need to play, so I just went out there and decided to be confident and shoot it with confidence.”
2. Fourth-quarter rally
The Aces only led by eight points entering the fourth quarter, but their defense helped them finally pull away.
They forced five turnovers in the final period and held Atlanta to just 13 shots. The Aces then turned those live-ball stops into opportunities in transition, scoring four fast-break points in the quarter. Wilson and Plum scored eight points each, and the Aces shot 59.1 percent in the quarter.
“We got stops, we got deflections, we got steals,” Wilson said. “Then we were just rocking and rolling.”
3. Clark misses out
George got back into the rotation Sunday in part because Clark was a late scratch, added to the injury report with a back injury minutes before tipoff. Hammon didn’t have a timeline for Clark’s return.
The 36-year-old Clark had played in all of the Aces’ games this season, making one start. She’s been the team’s most important reserve, averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 43.2 percent from 3 and providing defensive versatility.
“When she feels a little bit better, she’ll be back,” Hammon said. “We’re erring on the side of safety.”