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Aces hold Wings scoreless for 5 minutes to advance to WNBA Finals

Becky Hammon and the Aces celebrate after defeating the Wings to advance to the WNBA Finals. (Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Aces‘ proficiency on offense is well-documented. But on Friday, with a berth in the WNBA Finals on the line, it was Las Vegas’ defense that took center stage.

The Aces held the Dallas Wings scoreless over the final five minutes of their Game 3 semifinal matchup, and hung on for a 64-61 series-clinching victory.

Las Vegas’ 3-0 sweep means it will play the winner of the other semifinal series between the Connecticut Sun and the New York Liberty.

“This was a real gut-check type of win,” Aces coach Becky Hammon told reporters after the game. “Kudos to our defense holding it down and giving us a chance to crawl back into that game. Not the prettiest of games. We’re happy to be walking out of here with a win.

“At the end of the day, you have to take a look at our entertainment value, too. People don’t want to see a game in the 60s. It should be the finest display of basketball that the WNBA has right now. It was very ugly basketball.”

The Aces’ 11-0 run to end the game put a bow on a series in which Las Vegas outplayed Dallas. The Aces won the first game of the series, 97-83, and the second, 91-84. But in the clincher, when Las Vegas’ vaunted offense struggled, the team’s defense met the moment.

A’Ja Wilson, for instance, who had scored at least 30 points in her past three games, scored just 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting. But she shone on the other side of the ball: she recorded 13 rebounds and held Wings players to 1-for-10 shooting during plays in which she was the primary defender.

“Especially when it’s not going as well for me on the offensive end, I try to see what I can do to get my team and me going,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t have to be an offensive rhythm, but a defensive rhythm. It’s like, ‘If I’m not scoring, I can’t let you score.'”