UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun on Sunday to win their first W.N.B.A. championship. The Aces’ postseason reflected the regular-season dominance that led them to tie Chicago for the best record in the league.
The Aces led by as many as 10 but had to fight off furious rallies by the Sun before clinching the title in the fourth game of the best-of-five series. Las Vegas won, 78-71. Chelsea Gray led the Aces with 20 points and was named the most valuable player of the finals.
“I worked so hard for this,” Gray said as she became emotional and her teammates cheered.
The Aces finished with the best regular-season record in two of the past three seasons and second in the year they didn’t finish first. The Seattle Storm swept them in the 2020 finals. Las Vegas had shouldered the reputation of being a team good enough to win in the regular season but not able — or willing — to make the adjustments needed to succeed in the postseason. Its star-laden roster was seemingly too talented for its own good, with the best players often leaning on the isolation basketball they excel in but that has kept the Aces from closing out championships.
Bill Laimbeer, who had been the Aces’ coach for four years, stepped down before the season. The Aces hired Becky Hammon, who had been an assistant with the N.B.A.’s San Antonio Spurs. She took over a team led by A’ja Wilson, who won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2020.
As Hammon guided the Aces to the first seed, she said she saw glimpses of the style of play that had kept the Aces from winning a title. But that shifted in the Aces’ semifinal win over the Storm, during which Hammon said the players were “choosing each other” and learned how to “take a punch.”
That proved true as the Aces found ways to win playoff games while their stars struggled and they faced deficits — finally shaking the reputation of a team with unfulfilled potential. Wilson, 26, also won her second M.V.P. Award this season and was named the defensive player of the year.
On Sunday, Hammon thanked Laimbeer for putting the team together and praised her players.
“What I’m most proud of is we became a real team out here, and a team that cares about each other and trusts each other,” she said.
The loss for the Sun, the No. 3 seed, is another disappointing finish for a franchise with the second most wins in W.N.B.A. history but no championships.
This is breaking news, and the article will be updated.