WNBA playoffs: Aces blitz shorthanded Mercury with record 3-point barrage, advance to Round 2

Phoenix hung tough with Las Vegas in Game 1.

But down another key player, Phoenix was no match on Saturday as the top-seeded Aces cruised to a 117-80 win to eliminate the No. 8 seed Mercury and advance to the second round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Aces caught fire in a record 3-point shooting effort to secure the 2-0 series win and advance to semifinals where they'll face the winner between the No. 4 seed Seattle Storm and No. 5 seed Washington Mystics in a best-of-five series. The Storm won Game 1 and can clinch the best-of-three series with a second win on Sunday.

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) shoots over Phoenix Mercury's Kaela Davis during the first half in Game 2 of a WNBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Chelsea Gray led the Aces in a blowout win to eliminate the Mercury. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Both the Aces and Mercury came out on fire Saturday, shooting a combined 67.5% from the field as Las Vegas opened a 34-30 first-quarter lead. But as the Mercury cooled off, the Aces kept the fire burning in the second quarter and poured it on throughout blowout win.

The Aces outscored the Mercury, 29-14 in the second quarter to extend their lead to 63-44 at halftime. They connected on a WNBA halftime playoff-record 11 3-pointers in the process. They finished the game hitting 23 of 36 shots from behind the arc, setting a new WNBA record for a single game. Before Saturday, no WNBA team had connected on 20 3-pointers in a single game during the regular season or playoffs.

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An 18-2 Aces third-quarter run ensured that the outcome was in hand before the game's final stanza. When they were done, the Aces shot 64.1% from the field, 63.9% from 3-point distance and 85.7% from the free-throw line.

Chelsea Gray starred as one of six Aces players in double figures while posting a game-high 27 points and eight assists. She shot 9 of 11 from the field, a tally that included a game-high 7-of-8 effort from beyond the arc.

Kelsey Plum added 22 points and 4 rebounds, A'ja Wilson tallied 17 points and six assists, while Jackie Young chipped in 15 points and three steals. Eight different Aces players hit at least one 3-pointer while all 11 players on the team scored.

Gray and the rest of the Aces starters rested on the bench for much of the fourth quarter.

Diamond DeShields led the Phoenix effort with 21 points as the only Mercury player to score in double figures. Phoenix, which advanced to the WNBA Finals in 2021, entered Saturday's game down several key players in a season that's been overshadowed by the ongoing detention of All-Star center Brittney Griner in Russia.

Diana Taurasi missed both games of the series with a quad injury that sidelined her down the stretch of the regular season. As did Skylar Diggins-Smith, who missed both games as the team cited "personal reasons." Things went from bad to worse when Shey Peddy was diagnosed with a ruptured Achilles tendon that she suffered in Wednesday's Game 1 loss. In the end — against the WNBA's best regular-season team — the Mercury just didn't have the firepower to compete.