Sometimes scrolling through the scorer’s report after a basketball game can be as entertaining as reading a novel. Highlights can tell a sufficiently detailed story about how most games unfolded, but some games are simply too strange for a visual medium. In such cases, the simple series of box scores gives you all the drama you could ever want: twists and turns, slow-building story arcs, grand ironies, and plenty of those little details you only notice on reread. Our newest entry in the genre comes courtesy of the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky, who both made history when they played last night—and both for good reasons! Let’s gather ’round for a story, in four parts:
ACT I: What a way to begin! The Aces, with the best starting lineup in the league and a newly versatile offense this season, set the WNBA record for most points in a first quarter, and the scoring included a 23-0 Vegas run. “That first quarter was one of the most brilliant quarters I’ve ever seen of basketball. In a 10-minute quarter, we put up 41 points,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said postgame, surely in very high spirits after her team maintained what really looks like an insurmountable lead. Jackie Young, a breakout star in Vegas, led her team in scoring, something that’s become more common this year as she’s added a consistent three-point shot to her game. Chicago, their starting lineup a total mess in the plus-minus and turnover columns, wasn’t even shooting all that poorly. Some advice for the Sky: Do not let the other team shoot better than 63 percent from three on 11 attempts.
ACT II: Hmm. Things did get better for the Sky, but first they got worse. You’ll notice the scoresheet’s Biggest Lead stat in the second quarter has ticked up to 28 points for the Aces. It will probably be lost amid the impending Sky loss, but Courtney Vandersloot is having a pretty good game. Anyway, who can blame Vegas for taking their foot off the gas a little? Their lead is now an ordinary 11 points and maybe it’s not great that three of five starters were held scoreless, but they’re still shooting well as a team, so this doesn’t seem like much to worry about. They’ll be fine.
ACT III: Oh my god! Not a Lead Changes: 1! In the third quarter, the Aces scored 11 points to the Sky’s 30, and it’s kind of miraculous that they even did; seven of the 11 came from the free-throw line. (Strangely, the Sky have yet to attempt a free throw in this game.) Now, after a disastrous 15.4 percent shooting quarter, it is the Aces who have become turnover and plus-minus clowns. But this is the same team that once scored 41 points in a quarter. They did that like half an hour ago! Surely they have it in themselves to claw back the lead and show Chicago who’s boss!
ACT IV: No, they don’t. They don’t have that. The Sky saw the Aces’ scoring record and raised them “record for biggest comeback in WNBA history,” ultimately winning this one 104-95. They did so with six made free throws, all of them in the fourth quarter, and zero offensive rebounds. Vandersloot, the Sky’s savior once again, finished with a team-high 25 points and eight assists. Fascinating win.
Here is the full Becky Hammon postgame quote: “That first quarter was one of the most brilliant quarters I’ve ever seen of basketball. In a 10-minute quarter, we put up 41 points. And then basically after that they kicked our ass.”