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Kelsey Plum’s 32-Point Game Shows Just How Dangerous The Aces Are

Kelsey Plum picked apart the New York Liberty for a career-high 32 points in a 100-78 blowout win on Tuesday night. She was unstoppable, connecting on 11 of her 16 shots from the field including a trio of triples. She added five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and just two turnovers in 30 minutes.

The Aces are rolling now, winning four games in a row and seven of their last eight. But this win was especially important, even though the Liberty were without Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard. Plum missed the entirety of last season due to a torn Achilles, which never guarantees a full recovery. Even though last year’s WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and NBA All-Star Kevin Durant have both bounced back in a big way from their own respective Achilles injuries, this is still one of the most daunting things that can happen to a player.

Still, it’s being proven that an Achilles can be a bump in the road, and fortunately for the Aces, Plum is showing that it’s one that she can emphatically overcome.

“I don’t know a harder worker than Kelsey Plum …” her teammate Liz Cambage said, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal‘s Sam Gordon. “She loves this game more than anybody I know.”

In her first season back since the injury, Plum has played six games for the Aces and six games for Team USA at the Olympic qualifiers for the 3×3 competition. Along with teammates Allisha Gray, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Stefanie Dolson, the U.S. earned a ticket to Tokyo with a perfect 6-0 record. Plum averaged 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

Settling into a bench role with the Aces, Plum had a so-so start to the year. Through the first five games, she made just 11 shots from the field for 37 total points. She played fewer than 20 minutes in two of those games largely due to the team’s signing of All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray and the emergence of 2019 No. 1 pick Jackie Young. But Plum’s explosion against the Liberty shows just how deep this Aces team is.

Plum’s speed and craftiness were on display against a young New York backcourt. She found her way to the rim off a number of in-and-out dribble series and wrong-foot layups getting past her defender. Those quick bursts are encouraging after her injury.

Plum also capitalized on the Liberty’s sloppiness, poking away two steals of her own, and profiting on the other end with fast-break layups.

She also looked for her own shot more than usual. The NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball’s all-time scoring leader has developed a pass-first mentality since entering the pros, but in this game, she brought her University of Washington Huskies range.

The Aces were WNBA general managers’ pick to win the 2021 championship for good reason: They’re totally stacked. Last year’s MVP A’ja Wilson leads the team in scoring, the 6’8 Cambage is a terror on the low block, Gray slices up defenses, Dearica Hamby is a non-stop engine, Young is breaking out as a mid-range threat, and now Plum, the team’s seventh woman, is dropping 30-point games. It’s scary to think that they won’t be at full health either, with All-Star Angel McCoughtry sitting the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.

Vegas’s only losses have come to the two other best teams in the league; twice to the Connecticut Sun, and once to the reigning champion Seattle Storm. But as time passes, this group is starting click. Remember — Gray, Cambage, and Plum all weren’t with the 2020 team that reached the WNBA Finals.

The Aces are starting to catch fire. Circle their June 27 matchup with the Storm on your calendar.

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