WNBA: Aces clinch Commissioner's Cup berth in quick and flawless fashion

The Las Vegas Aces have already clinched their berth in the Commissioner's Cup.

The Aces booked their spot as the Western Conference representatives with a 92-84 win over the Dallas Wings on Wednesday afternoon at College Park Center in Dallas for kids day. They're 8-0 in Cup contests, a mark the Seattle Storm (4-4) cannot catch.

In the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Sky (9-4, 7-0 Cup) can clinch this week. The reigning WNBA champions need the Connecticut Sun (10-4, 3-2) to lose to the Atlanta Dream (2-3) on Wednesday so they can clinch with a win over Atlanta on Friday.

The second annual Commissioner's Cup will be held Tuesday, July 26, on Amazon Prime from the arena of the team with the highest winning percentage in Cup play. If there is a tie, a series of tiebreakers beginning with head-to-head record will come into play. The Aces won the first meeting against the Sky, 83-76, in Chicago and host them again in Vegas on June 21.

Las Vegas (12-2) is the quickest and winningest team to clinch a spot thus far. They did it on the 40th day of the season and with a pristine record.

In the first iteration of the midseason competition, the Connecticut Sun clinched the first-ever berth on July 9 — 56 days into the season. Connecticut was 8-1 (.889) at the time of clinching. The Storm clinched their spot later that night with a 7-2 (.778) record at the time. Seattle won the contest, 79-57, as the first game out of the five-week Olympic break.

Aces hottest in the league

Dearica Hamby
The Las Vegas Aces are into the Commissioner's Cup, where they could pull in more than $30,000 each with a victory. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) (Meg Oliphant via Getty Images)

Kelsey Plum (27 points) and A'ja Wilson (25) combined for 52 points in Wednesday's win. Wilson had four of the team's six blocks. Dearica Hamby had a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double and Chelsea Gray scored 16. Jackie Young was the only starter out of double digits with eight.

They won despite being out-rebounded, 40-33, and shooting 27.3% (6-of-22) from 3-point range. Arike Ogunbowale poured in 28 points for Dallas and Marina Mabrey returned from health and safety protocols to score 18 off the bench. They combined to shoot 7-of-16 from 3.

The Aces came into the season on a historic offensive pace that has cooled off, but just barely. In an interview with the Wings broadcast team that aired at halftime, Aces first-year coach Becky Hammon said she had one non-negotiable for the team when she took over.

"When you're open, shoot it," she recalled telling the team. "And when you're not, pass it."

Their only losses are to the Washington Mystics, 89-76, on May 10 and to the Connecticut Sun, 97-90, on June 2. They're averaging a league-best 90.8 points per game and shooting a second-best 36.3% on 119 3-pointers, a top-five total.

They host the struggling Minnesota Lynx on Sunday.

What is the Commissioner's Cup?

The in-season contest was launched last season and was instituted as part of the groundbreaking 2020 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Each team plays 10 games designated as Cup games in the conference. It's the first home and first away game a team plays against the conference opponent during the first half of the season.

The prize pool is $500,000 with players on the winning team making at least $30,000 — more than half of what players on four-year rookie contracts make in an entire season. Players on the losing team will pocket $10,000 each, and the game's MVP will receive an additional $5,000.

This year the games included activities and activations encouraging long-term active participation in the civic process, including voting. Select organizations received donations for their team's Cup wins.