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How Chelsea Gray's 'clutch factor' propels the All-Star snub into a historic playoff

LAS VEGAS — If you can’t stand to take your eyes off Chelsea Gray, take a peek at the Las Vegas Aces bench when she stops in the lane. Before the ball touched the net, Kierstan Bell was one of his teammates ready to raise his arms and yell. money. Guaranteed.

When the game is tight and the ace point guard has the ball in his hands, there’s confidence and composure emanating from the reserves. Need a bucket? Gray finds out. Need a game-deciding dagger? look at this.

“It helps that our whole team is really good. [Gray’s] The clutch factor,” veteran guard Sidney Colson told Yahoo Sports. It’s pretty unbelievable to hit back-to-back at the moment that splits the game when it’s like that.”

Nicknamed “Point Goud” by former teammate Candice Parker, Gray had a great postseason. As she continues to take over the postseason in 2022, every part of the moniker is on par, and the eight-year veteran of her time out of Duke University is, in her own account, “I’m very happy right now.” We are concentrating on There’s a look in her eyes that could soon reflect her championship trophy, maybe even WNBA Finals MVP.

“Chelsea in the playoffs is something special and we are very happy to have her by our side because it’s not just shotmaking, it’s not just playmaking, it’s how she makes the game for us. It’s an easy one for us to analyze,” said two-time MVP A’ja Wilson before the Finals.

Jackie Young called her an “extension” of Aces head coach Becky Hammon. . Her influence on this final group is all over the place.

“And the composure she has in our locker room is huge,” Wilson said.

Las Vegas Aces players Aja Wilson and Chelsea laugh at a press conference after the Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun 67-64 in Game 1 of the 2022 WNBA Finals at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on September 11, 2022 Gray, Jackie Young. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The reason Ace went into the final stretch after taking a few days off was because she took over the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Seattle Storm. In her four games that were tight, tough, and anyone could beat her, she finished with her 12 of her 20 points in the final.

“Unconscious” was a descriptor used by Storm head coach Noel Quinn. “I don’t think anyone on earth can protect her.”

Connecticut Sun head coach Kurt Miller is tasked with limiting their impact in this final, but he says otherwise.

“These numbers are now video game numbers,” he told Yahoo Sports before Game 1.

Heading into the Finals, she was averaging 24 points, 7 assists on 63% shooting, and 59% bonkers across the arc. These numbers were achieved by NBA’s Chris Paul and Larry Bird in her six games. Neither were in the postseason.

And she’s playing on hard mode. There are always hands on her face and a body around her. The team throws her various defenses, switching, trapping, speeding and sizing throughout the game. Miller said she’s still “amazing” and “dynamic.”

Gray brought the Sun 21 points, but the rest of the line fell short of the postseason standards she set. She actually pulled her average down with 9 of her 17 RBIs (52.9%). Her six turnovers were a season-high, and her three assists averaged less than half of her seven.

“She’s a tough shotmaker,” said Miller after the Sun lost Game 1, 67-64. If it continues, we will be delighted.”

yet. Chelsea Gray. She clutched when needed, including handling the defense that Hammon called after the game. Dearika off the bench Coupled with her Humvee energy, she put Ace back into the lead in the third quarter. In the 4th her pull-up her jumper kept an ace at her 4-point distance which was ultimately needed to pull her 2 wins out of the franchise’s first championship.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs throughout the game,” Gray told Yahoo Sports. “Keeping my cool, keeping my cool has always been my way and how I operate, even outside of basketball. [and] all noise. I have this ability to quiet it down a bit. And that’s what makes it fun. ”

Fans and teammates enjoy watching her. Colson, an eight-season WNBA veteran, called Gray “the most clutch player I’ve ever played with.” She possesses a combination of excellent ball-handling, top-notch passing and incredible shooting skills, and Colson said you don’t usually see someone at such a high level in this position.

“There aren’t many point guards that usually hit shots this big,” Colson said. “So just watching from courtside is pretty unbelievable.”

The Las Vegas Aces bench reacts behind Chelsea Gray after he hits a three-pointer in a regular season game against the New York Liberty on July 14, 2022.  (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Aces bench reacts behind Chelsea Gray after he hits a three-pointer in a regular season game against the New York Liberty on July 14, 2022. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Reality TV show-ready team clowns Colson and Teresa Pleasence are front-row witnesses to the absurdity that Gray showcases every other night. At home in the noisy Michelob Ultra Arena, it’s a blast. When they hit the road to Connecticut later this week, it will be just like any other expedition.

If previous experience is any indication, the Mohegan Sun crowd will be big mad. Colson and Plaisance are just being themselves. It’s fun to hear their own reactions to their superstar teammates.

“We just [told the crowd] she is nice She can’t protect her,” Colson told Yahoo Sports. “What do you want us to do? It’s not our fault.”

“I’m thrilled,” added Pleasence.

“But sometimes she’s hitting shots, and we’ve seen her hit,” Colson said. “So part of you is no longer reacting in an appropriate way. She just does it.”

“You’re just numb to the fact that she hits incredible shots,” said Pleasence. “What about the other free-throw line behind?” Colson asked. “Yes,” replied Pleasence.

“What, Thursday? All right,” Colson added.

“It’s very Chelsea. That’s how we feel,” Pleasance said, summing it all up.

gray is headache An opponent the Aces have faced since missing an All-Star appearance in July. This honor is a weighted vote by the fans, media members and players who submitted their ballots. Gray was the only ace starter not playing for Chicago.

Maybe next year they’ll vote for her to save themselves. Her 3-point clip of her took an even bigger jump (29.1% to 40%) on more attempts.

“She was just on another planet. It’s going well,” Hamon said. “I’ve been trying to get her out of her way. Give her the ball.”

Teammates can be numb to the difficulty, as Gray’s eye-popping highlights didn’t come out of nowhere. To repeat something over and over again, you need repetition. No, she said she never surprises herself.

“I’ve been practicing stuff like that in the gym, so when you get into the game it feels more natural,” Gray said. I know it’s coming.”

Wilson remembers watching and playing against Gray when she was point guard for the Sparks.

“She loves it,” said Wilson. “She’s just chill. And now that she’s on the court with her, she’s finding herself looking like she’s really made it!”

Rookies Bell and Aisha Shepherd called Gray “totally different” and were quick to notice her passes from behind.

“Nobody does that in college,” Bell told Yahoo Sports. “That’s why college and the WNBA are different. That’s the next level. You play like that. She’s been that way ever since I walked into this training camp.”

Gray told Yahoo Sports that “small moments” like practice and training camp work “make the big picture happen.” Ranks 7th in postseason history for players with at least 75 attempts. The record is 66.304% for her, held by Candace Dupree in 2014, with everyone in the top 15 playing in the frontcourt.

Even if she plays lower than what she historically sets as the benchmark for high scores, she can win in other ways. Ball handling that breaks a fan’s ankle. The silence that spreads on the bench.

“She’s special,” Colson said. “That would be the words I would focus on. She’s special.”