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Chelsea Gray Serves Aces Wins In Every Flavor

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 28: Chelsea Gray #12 of the Las Vegas Aces passes as Tiffany Mitchell #25 of the Minnesota Lynx defends in the fourth quarter of their game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on May 28, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Aces defeated the Lynx 94-73.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Aces are so good, so complete, so comfortable playing together, and so totally ahead of the field that you sometimes get the sense they spend long stretches of their games just trying to stay entertained. The team is 21-2 and undefeated at home. After Saturday night's win over the Lynx, they have now won five straight games by at least a 15-point margin. Don't they get bored? Surely they crave a little excitement? Some pizzazz?

For all of that, it helps to have Chelsea Gray on the roster. If there can't be much variety in the ends, she guarantees there will be some in the means. The 30-year-old point guard is enjoying a career-best shooting season, one on pace to be the second 50-40-90 season in WNBA history. She heated up in last year's playoffs and never cooled back down.

You might expect some of the actual point guarding to fall by the wayside when the shooting is that good, but what's been so fun about this year's version of Gray is how delightfully extra it all is. No skill has been substituted for another skill here. An already-daring player, known for taking contested midrange shots and making saucy behind-the-back passes, is still doing all those things, except even more. In Saturday's game alone, she connected on three or four passes most other point guards would be proud to see on their career highlight reel one day. By the end of the third quarter, Gray had already made 10 assists; she'd finish with 11 in 34 minutes. She seems keenly aware that basketball is an entertainment product, and if her team has to hand Minnesota a dispiriting loss, she should at least give Lynx fans some special memory to take home.

Which is not to say a Chelsea Gray pass can't also have dispiriting effects. See here the slumping shoulders of Lynx guard Kayla McBride, moments after Gray swatted a no-look pass right through her outstretched arms to a wide-open A'ja Wilson.

It was just over a year ago that every Aces starter made the All-Star Game except for Gray. As I watched her dominate in last weekend's Skills Challenge, at an All-Star Game she was rightfully selected for, it struck me just how silly she had made last year's omission seem in the time since. Gray has said the snub fueled her playoff run and inspired her to train harder—maybe she's better for it. But it feels kind of ridiculous to imagine this team without her. The very idea of "every Aces starter except for Gray" sounds wrong now, like "every member of Dave Matthews Band except for Dave Matthews."

The story of these Aces is a story of players finally playing to their potential. Some of that was coaching: Becky Hammon asked players to round out their games and freed them from rigid roles. But mining that potential is also the job of the point guard—to know her teammates better than anyone else, to see in them things no one else can see. The Aces have the advantage of years spent playing and winning together, but an offense like this one runs on more than just experience. It's powered in large part by Chelsea Gray's belief that her teammates can handle whatever she throws their way, and that the unexpected, crazy-looking route from Point A to Point B will turn out to be the right one. She doesn't have to look. We can't look away.

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