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Chelsea Gray powers No. 2 Aces to winner-take-all Game 5 vs. No. 5 Mercury

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Chelsea Gray came to play.

The Las Vegas guard scored 22 points to spark the Aces to a 93-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday night at Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix and force Game 5 of the WNBA semifinal series.

Gray was 9 of 17 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range in 23 minutes. She was everywhere for the Aces, adding six assists. Gray picked up two early fouls in the first quarter, but turned it on for the rest of the game to keep the Aces’ Finals hopes alive.

Sixth Person of the Year Kelsey Plum scored 20 points and six assists off the bench, while Riquna Williams had 17 points with three 3-pointers. A’ja Wilson added a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds (all on the defensive end). 

The Aces shot 48.1% from the field with 11 3-pointers, 37 rebounds and 22 assists. 

Game 5 of the semifinal series is 9 p.m. ET Friday in Las Vegas. It will be televised on ESPN2. The winner will face the Chicago Sky in the WNBA Finals. The No. 6-seeded Sky beat the No. 1 Connecticut Sun in four games earlier Wednesday. Game 1 of the Finals is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.

Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage celebrates after a 3-point shot against the Phoenix Mercury in Game 4 of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2021. The Aces defeated the Mercury 93-76 to even the series and force a decisive Game 5. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage celebrates after a 3-point shot against the Phoenix Mercury in Game 4 of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2021. The Aces defeated the Mercury 93-76 to even the series and force a decisive Game 5. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Injuries, third-quarter drought doom Mercury

Las Vegas limited Phoenix to only 11 points in the third quarter as its lead ballooned. The Mercury had scored only two points at the 2:27 mark of the quarter when Kia Vaughn finally scored to end a 24-0 run by the Aces and a string of 12 straight missed field goals for the Mercury. 

The Mercury couldn't right the ship after that.

Phoenix was limited by injuries as its bench depth took a hit and the starters were forced to play longer minutes.

Starting forward Kia Nurse left the game shortly after tipoff after sustaining a right knee injury and did not return. ESPN reported that Nurse was able to walk to the locker room and was scheduled to get an MRI. Sophie Cunningham (calf) also was ruled out before Game 4.

Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith led the Mercury with 14 points apiece. Brittney Griner added 13 points and eight boards.

Shey Peddy started the game hot with 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting and two 3-pointers in the first quarter. She finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

Mercury finally play at home

The Mercury finally got a true home-court advantage this postseason after playing their first two “home” playoffs games at GCU Arena and Arizona State’s Desert Financial Arena.

The NBA’s Phoenix Suns moved their scheduled preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers earlier Wednesday so that the WNBA semifinals game could be played at Footprint Center in the ESPN broadcast window. Suns players watched the game courtside.

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