Kelsey Plum nets 34 as Aces top Caitlin Clark, Fever in Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Aces coach Becky Hammon said when team officials asked her about moving Tuesday’s game with the Indiana Fever to the larger T-Mobile Arena, her only question was, “Can we make money?”

Told they could, Hammon said, “Move it!” The result was a sellout crowd of 20,366, the fifth largest in WNBA history and largest regular-season crowd at a WNBA game since 1999. They watched the Aces — led by a season-high 34 points from Kelsey Plum — defeat the Fever 88-69.

Indiana has become accustomed to big crowds at home and on the road this season, as the popularity of No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark has helped the Fever drive up their attendance. Sunday’s Fever-Mercury game in Phoenix drew 17,071 fans, the largest crowd at Footprint Center since 1997.

There have been eight games in WNBA history to draw at least 20,000 fans. Four came in the opening years of the league, from 1997 to ’99. There were two from 2000 to ’23. Two have come this year, both Fever games — Tuesday night and June 7 at Washington, when the Fever and Mystics drew 20,333.

The Aces typically play at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, which holds about 12,000. They’ve had a couple of games in previous seasons at T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Golden Knights, and will have another for the Sept. 3 matchup with the Chicago Sky and popular rookie Angel Reese.

“Honestly, it was probably one of the best we’ve had from like an energy standpoint,” Clark, who had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 11 assists, said of the crowd. “The amount of people here just watching warmups, I feel like that’s when I can kind of get a gauge on how good the crowd is or how excited they are about the game.

“Obviously, they’re always excited, but tonight it just felt very different. There were just mobs of people watching us warm up. It’s super cool to be a part of. I hope everybody enjoyed it. And also, I hope everybody saw how good the Aces are. Their fans show up and are incredible.”

Las Vegas, 11-6 and on a five-game winning streak, is the two-time defending WNBA champion and the team that others like the Fever aspire to emulate. The Aces have four players on the U.S. women’s 5-on-5 Olympic team: A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Plum and Jackie Young.

Wilson right now projects as the clear front-runner for WNBA MVP; she had 28 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots Tuesday. Young had 15 points and 10 assists. And Plum, with her season-high 34, became the fourth player in franchise history to hit the 3,000-point mark. That group also includes Wilson and Hammon, who played for the franchise when it was still in San Antonio.

“When you can shoot it like she can shoot it, and she’s fast — that’s the hardest thing in basketball,” Hammon said of Plum. “To guard a live-ball closeout with somebody who can shoot, drive, pass and close out in the paint.”

Plum was one of five No. 1 draft picks playing Tuesday, along with teammates Wilson and Young and Indiana’s Clark and Aliyah Boston.

Tuesday was also when the Team WNBA All-Star roster was announced, and it includes Fever players Clark, Boston and Kelsey Mitchell.

They will face Team USA, which has the four Aces players, in the All-Star Game on July 20 in Phoenix.

The Aces have been one of the best-drawing teams in the WNBA since the franchise moved to Las Vegas in 2018. They have sold out the remainder of their home games.

Tuesday night, though, did feel extra special.

“There were a couple of times you could feel the building was about to erupt,” Hammon said. “There’s a lot of eyes on us now. Vegas has been showing up, though, for the past few years, so I’m not surprised. It was pretty loud in there. The more fans the merrier, whoever you’re coming to watch.”

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