Chelsea Gray's Integral Part in the Aces' Championship Run
It was the fourth quarter of Game 1 and the Aces led the Mercury by just four points. The game had a frustrating tone to it. A’ja Wilson was having a rare off-shooting night and the Aces were struggling to gain and maintain a big lead over an extremely short-handed Mercury team. With just under seven minutes left on the clock, Chelsea Gray drove to the basket and was fouled by Megan Gustafson, which was then upgraded to a flagrant 1. Fired up, Gray walked towards Gustafson, turned around, and puffed her chest. It was clear that the momentum was about to change. Gray went on to score nine points in three minutes to make it a double-digit lead for the Aces. She finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
In Game 2, she picked up right where she left off, dropping 27 points, along with eight assists, three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal to lead the Aces to the semifinals.
Coming in clutch is nothing new for the point guard, who was described as “the clutchest player in the WNBA” by teammate Kelsey Plum. Look, for example, at her game-winning fadeaway shot over legends Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus in Game 1 of the 2017 Finals, or her career-high 33 point, seven rebound, and nine assist performance in this year's regular-season finale to help the Aces move into the top seed. Whether it be through her automatic scoring or magic passing ability, Gray consistently makes the right reads and finds ways to win games for her team when they need it most.
“The way she sees the development of the game, two, three steps ahead of what’s happening is really masterful,” said Becky Hammon in a video done by the Aces. “It’s like watching a master chess player.”
Aces President Nikki Fargas complimented Gray's keen ability to always be in-tune with the game.
"She understands pace, she understands momentum, she understands how to execute, how to get the ball to the right people at the right time,” Fargas said.
Gray’s early journey to the league wasn’t an easy one. She had her junior season at Duke cut short by a dislocated kneecap, and then her senior season ended by a fractured kneecap. These gruesome back-to-back injuries left Gray questioning if she’d ever play basketball again. To her surprise, she was invited to the 2014 WNBA Draft and selected 11th overall by the Connecticut Sun.
“I wasn’t sure I really belonged there,” Gray said about draft night in her Players' Tribune article.
She spent what should have been her rookie season rehabbing, and then the next season coming off the bench for Connecticut. In 2016, she was traded to the Sparks where she received her first All-Star nod and scored 11 straight points in the second half of Game 5 of the Finals to win the Sparks a championship. Now, the WNBA Champion, four-time All-Star, and Olympic gold medalist is one of the best point guards in the league and an absolutely vital piece to leading this Las Vegas Aces team to their championship aspirations.
“When you want to win a championship, you want to be guided by somebody that’s been there before," Wilson said. "When we signed her, it was huge because we needed that floor general on the court, we needed that guidance.”