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September 11, 2022

A'ja Wilson

Chelsea Gray

Jackie Young

Las Vegas Aces

Game 1: Postgame

Las Vegas Aces 67, Connecticut Sun 64

Q. Jackie, A'ja, first Finals win, first Finals win in Las Vegas, since last time it was in the bubble. What was the atmosphere around the game and how does it feel to have that under your belt?

A'JA WILSON: It was a game we needed. It was a game we needed not necessarily because, oh, it's our first win. It's because it's something that this is huge for us. These are statement games in a way and when you are playing a good team like Conn, you have to really lock in at all costs. It was good to have a game underneath our belt. The crowd was great and now we have to get ready for Game 2.

Q. A'ja, for the most part Chelsea Gray is known as your point guard but tonight she came through on defense, taking that charge specifically. How important is she on your defense and especially against this type of a team?

A'JA WILSON: She's huge. She's huge for us. On both ends of the basketball, Chelsea is locked in, ready to go, and when you have your point guard that locked in, you have to choice but to do the same and just follow behind her. Everything that she does, I'm like I'm going to bet on you. I'm doubling down no matter what, because I trust her instinct and I trust the way she sees the game. I know that last shot she's probably not going to sleep tonight but she needs to get her rest. I'll be the first one to tell her, next one, next one.

This is a series for a reason. We come out with a win. Let's try to see how we can change that and make it easier on you. That's my job. I don't get MVP without Chelsea. I don't get MVP without Jackie and so on down the line. If I can make their life easier so they can go out and they can be a great player, two-way player, I'm all for it.

Q. Chelsea, we've been talking with various people coming through here and watching the shots you've been able to hit, a lot of them tough and captivating. What's that moment like for you sizing up the defense, what are the advantages in those moments where the defense is still right in front of you that you can take advantage of?

CHELSEA GRAY: I think it's like I've been in the gym -- I've been in the gym practicing those types of things, so when it gets in the game, they are more of a natural feel. It's not something that's out of the ordinary, and my teammates know that it's coming.

My fadeaway, I'm able to get it off, off of long defenders. They have Alyssa Thomas, they have Bonner, so how can I get my shot off and be efficient with it and just get to my spots and use my legs?

Q. A'ja, as a team, we talk about your guys' high-flying offense, but Coach Curt Miller came in and said, we were able to dictate our style and held them to low scoring and you still won, and you also held them; they had a hard time making a basket in the second half. I guess what do we need to know about you guys as a defensive and a tough, and a physical team, something that we don't always highlight when we talk about the Aces?

A'JA WILSON: Coming into training camp, Becky really put a lot of emphasis on defense and rebounding. She said that's going to be us. That's going to be our identity. That's who we are in protecting Vegas.

So when we come out, we have to have that mindset and locked in and I think it just starts with me. I take full accountability of being the anchor of our defense side of the basketball. And offense is going to come. We played well outside of our defense. So no matter what may be going on, no matter what the physicality of the game is, if we can get stops and play out of that, that's us. That's who we are.

Yeah, a lot of people may not talk about how we do on the defensive end but we have come a very, very long way and we still have a lot of work to do. But I think we do take a lot of pride on getting it done on the defensive side because that's the most important side. Like, yeah, they can hold us to, I don't know, 67, however many, but at the end of the day we have to also hold them down as well.

If we can play on both ends of the basketball and execute on the defensive, I've got us all the way.

Q. Can you just take us through what Becky said at halftime to you guys? She said she was more lit than usual.

CHELSEA GRAY: It was lit. We have children watching. She was just on us to play our style defensively. Offensively, we were letting them get offensive rebounds, easy scores, turning over the ball.

A'JA WILSON: You mean you didn't hear?

CHELSEA GRAY: That's the edited version. I can't give you everything.

Q. Were you surprised by how animated she was?


A'JA WILSON: Not at all.

Q. You touched on it, the offensive rebounds, I know they were a big problem in the Seattle series. What has to change going forward?

A'JA WILSON: It's a want. It's a want. It's that extra effort. We're at a point in the season where we have to give it our all, no matter what. Even if you think you're not there, we still have to push through that wall. We have still dig deep and be like I have to secure this basketball, not only for myself and my defender not getting it, but for my team. That's more possessions for them and vice versa.

I think we just have to be really, really big on guards coming through the elbows and boxing out the bigs. I think it's a collective effort from all of us of just wanting to attack it and go get it.

Q. The edited version that Becky said that you were not doing, it seemed like with about 4:33 left in the third, Dearica came in and sparked this team. We can talk about your lazy stats but that would seem to be the spark. Can you just comment on her play?

CHELSEA GRAY: First of all, I like your suit. Real nice.

Yeah, she changed the game for us. What? Fresh.

She was huge for us. Came in, energy plays. It's not going to show in the stat sheet. I was just like, yeah, D! She was making all the right plays, when it was a rebound, getting deflections, getting a 24 violation when she was out there. Just the little things, she sparked it for us and that is where it was a turning point and we really took control of the game. It was all energy, heart, effort. That's hard to do. She was cold, too. She didn't have a warmup where she came into the game. She came in right away and was effective.

Q. You talked about defense and how Becky stressed defense but if you look at Kelsey Plum, even though the shots may not have been falling her way, she really masterminded the defensive end. Talk about what her impact was as well and how she was able to influence you guys down the stretch.

A'JA WILSON: It's key. It's key. When you can just -- when it's not going your way on the offensive end and you can still be productive for your team on the defensive end, that's the sign of just a good all-around team. And I know she's probably going to be sick tonight as well but we have to regroup and refocus because we have a Game 2.

But I think she's starting to prove to herself that she can be out on the court and defend even when it's not going her way on the offensive end. That's growth. That's huge growth. I think we just have people doing the right things at the right time. People are forming into their roles and we have come a long way but I think we are doing it the right way and that's what it's all about. I mean, I'm proud of my teammates across the board. Even though it was a close game, we still stayed mentally locked in and I think that's a big sign of growth for us.

Q. So A'ja, Becky came in here and she sort of talked about your leadership style. She said that you have this "it" factor. Curious to what you think she meant by that and how you describe your own leadership style.

A'JA WILSON: I have no idea what Becky meant by that but I am who I am. I'm just going to be there for my teammates and I feel like I've developed relationships and bonds with each one of my teammates to where I know exactly how to talk to them and get the best out of them. I'm not going to talk to Chelsea the same way I'm going to talk to Jackie to get what we need out of them, but at the end of the day this is the first time I turned up in time-outs today. I don't know what it was.

You've just got to want it and I never understood how important my role honestly was on this team until this year. I just started forming to the leadership role and I can't do that without my teammates. They trust me and they believe in me to have that say.

I think my leadership style is I'm a vocal leader but also very emotional leader but I'm also going to just go out there and hold it down for my team. If that's a leader, that's a leader.

Q. Jackie, curious what the Aces' style is defensively, if you can describe that, and what allowed you all to create the amount of shot-clock violations you got this afternoon?

JACKIE YOUNG: We have to be locked in defensively, execute our defensive schemes. I know we are a little bit smaller so I think it's important for the guards to get rebounds. But I mean, the biggest thing is just trying to be physical and making it hard for their guards to get it, and their posts to get it and then just execute the defensive scheme whenever they do get it.

Q. A'ja and Jackie, I know 2020 is a long time ago, it was in the bubble, but were there things maybe that you both learned from your experience in the Finals before that helped coming out today in terms of is there that little extra level that you have to be at for a Finals matchup?

CHELSEA GRAY: You go first.

Q. Yes, Jackie, we are going to make you go first.

JACKIE YOUNG: I think just taking it one game at a time. This is what we have worked for all season and I think it was important for us to get this first win at home. I think just being locked in from the start was the biggest thing, and just going back and looking at things from Game 1 and trying to be better at it in Game 2. So we are just taking one game at a time.

A'JA WILSON: And I think, also, I've said this plenty of times, I think in the bubble we were just happy to be there and also happy to leave. I think now in the moment, okay, we know that feeling, it sucks getting swept, it's the worst thing ever but that's the chip on your shoulder. That's the fire. That's the grind that you say, I don't want to get swept anymore. You want to go out and play for your teammates because you felt the way you felt in 2020 and you hate it. I still hate that.

But at the end of the day, I'm walking into this series like we earned to be here, both teams deserve to be here. We earned our way here and it wasn't an easy route at all now, but we're here. So it's like, now what?

It's not like (in relaxed, light airy voice), Oh, yes, we're here. Like, oh, my God, yes, the Finals, we've got a sticker on our uniform.

No, it's time to play and work because we deserved and we earned our way here.

Q. What did you see out of your defense in the second half in terms of your zone and how it was able to frustrate them?

CHELSEA GRAY: I think we were working our way from the paint and out. A lot of times they were getting the ball in the paint and they were getting second-chance points. Jackie mentioned it, like the guards got to come in and get some rebounds. There were some key rebounds where Kelsey came up and got some rebounds. Jackie followed it by the elbow and got some long rebounds they were getting in the first half.

So we were able to get stops and rebounds, and that's key. They feed off that. That's their energy booster when we are turning over the ball and when they are offensive rebounding. So we clamped down there and made them take outside shots and not get too much into a flow.

Q. On that final defensive possession, what was the conversations and the focus for you all? Was there one person you were locking in on or what was the focus on that possession?

A'JA WILSON: What was the final defensive possession? (Laughter).

CHELSEA GRAY: See what I go through in huddles? No, it wasn't just one person. Obviously they have Bonner. They have JJ. Like everybody is pretty much capable.

A'JA WILSON: Oh! (Laughter).

CHELSEA GRAY: Capable of making the three. So we just wanted to lock in, no threes and no and-ones. A two doesn't hurt us. That's always our mindset is, we want to have high hands because we don't want to leave it in the ref's hands. We want to be able to get a stop.

So it was key. Bonner shot a shot contested. If that ball goes in, we would be happy with our defense. But we got the stop and we got a rebound.

Q. The Aces with a season-low eight assists today. How much of that was the half-court process and how much was that just shots not falling?

CHELSEA GRAY: I mean, they want to muck it up. Like that's their defensive scheme. We did miss some outside shots and we are going to take the same ones. Like we have been working and it's natural in our offense. Those shots that we got, we are going to knock them down the next game.

Second of all, I just have to do a better job of not turning the basketball over, and when we are able to play out of our defense, that's when we are flowing and kicking, penetrate, kick, hitting shooters and that's a style of play that we want to do.

But we just got to do a better job of taking care of it. Ten turnovers isn't bad but I had freaking six of them. Just being locked in offensively a little bit more but it won't be the same next game.

Q. You mentioned A'ja turning up in that fourth quarter time-out. That's not something we see super often and sounds like it's not something you guys see super often. When she does bring that sort of energy and leadership style, what does it do for the team?

CHELSEA GRAY: It's like you know you're waiting in the huddle and what do we say, and she says the right thing in the right moment and gets us going. It's an energy boost. It was some choice words, so I can't say everything that was said. But it's like we need to lock in. It's another level that we can go to.

So when you have your leader out there just like explaining, like we can't just give it to them. We have to lock in ourselves, and that's what she was saying in the huddle. It gave us another energy boost to go get a stop, go get a rebound and do it for the next person. So that got us going.

Q. So I think a lot of this series comes down to your production in terms of playing the pick-and-roll because the Sun are good at playing chess at the level of the screen. So can you talk to that balance that you find in terms of when you are coming off screens, making reads and making passes and keep flowing the offense versus going to get your own bucket?

CHELSEA GRAY: It's all a balance game, not just in the pick-and-roll. The ball is in my hands a lot, so if I'm in a pick-and-roll, it doesn't necessarily mean it's for me. It's not for the popper, for the roller all the time. We have to see how they are guarding it. In a couple of those moments I have to be able to take care of it and execute it out of the pick-and-roll, and I know they were putting two on the ball.

It's more of a feel thing and depending on where everybody is on the floor, sometimes it's different when A'ja comes into a pick versus when Kiah comes into it. So just playing off of that and just making the right read.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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