The Las Vegas Aces currently hold a 2-1 series lead over the New York Liberty. With game four on Wednesday, the Aces will be without two starters due to foot injuries.
Breaking: Las Vegas Aces Kiah Stokes and Chelsea Gray will be out for Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, head coach Becky Hammon announced.— ESPN (@espn) October 17, 2023
Both have foot injuries and are questionable for Game 5 (if necessary). pic.twitter.com/8x1YqRB0xi
The Aces are once again plagued by injuries
The Las Vegas Aces command a 2-1 series lead, and remain one win away from capturing their second consecutive WNBA Championship. The best-of-five, the Aces are once again hindered by injuries. This time, both Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes are suffering from foot injuries. Already missing Candace Parker with a foot fracture, the Aces are filled with the task of filling multiple voids on the biggest stage of the year. They've also been without Riquna Williams, who was arrested on domestic battery charges earlier this year.
Chelsea Gray, the 2022 Finals MVP, is the heart and soul of the Aces team. Nicknamed the "Point Gawd," Gray is one of the most prolific point guards to ever play the position. She's often the most vocal in timeouts, and can be seen drawing up plays for her team. Without her, Las Vegas will be missing their facilitator and the engine that makes the team run. She was seen with a boot on her left foot, along with a scooter at Tuesday's practice at the Barclays Center.
Gray is certainly a leading factor in this Finals series. In three postseason matchups against the Liberty, Gray is averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.3 steals. An x-factor in games one and two, Gray is shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range through three games. In the first two matchups, Chelsea was facilitating like no other, and hitting incredibly high contested shots. Gray, originally hurt on a play guarding Breanna Stewart, was visibly seen in pain, hobbling on one foot to the locker room.
Kiah Stokes has been Candace Parker's replacement since her injury in July. Although Stokes isn't a large presence on the offense, she remains an integral part of the defense. Stokes is averaging 2.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2 assists in the Finals matchups against New York. Not appearing injured in game three, Stokes stated she "can't really tell you what happened, but my foot kind of hurts."
Becky Hammon weighs in: "Next woman up"
"They will both be out for game 4," Becky Hammon said at Tuesday's practice. When asked about Stokes and Gray's status for game 5, Hammon stated that "it's questionable." Stokes was seen on crutches during Tuesday's practice in Brooklyn.
"They both have foot injuries," said Hammon. "It's the next woman up. Everybody's gonna get a crack, everybody's gonna get a shot, probably-- Everybody just has to be ready to go, locked in."
Hammon later joked she would stick Sydney Colson at the backpack position, and stick her on Jonquel Jones.
Aces will use a committee
Becky Hammon stated the Aces will run by committee after game three, although it's clear not one player can replace Gray. Las Vegas will most likely look to Sydney Colson and Cayla George to replace Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes. The Aces ranked last in the regular season in terms of bench points per game (13.5). Thin at multiple positions, Becky Hammon has primarily relied on a six player rotation.
The Aces typically run a three guard lineup, which will allow Kelsey Plum to step up at point guard.
Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young will run the point
"We just shuffle KP [Kelsey Plum] over and Jackie [Young] will get some duties," Hammon told the press after game three. " Maybe we see Syd [Colson]. We do it by committee. I don't think there's any one person that's going to step up and fill her [Chelsea Gray] shoes. It's going to be a next woman up type scenario. Not one person is going to replace her, just everybody steps up and does a little bit more."
The Aces have vocalized they have battled adversity, and it hasn't just been in the postseason. "We bounce back from adversity all year, " said Hammon after game 3. "You either stay down or you get up. I know this group will get up."
The Aces will matchup against the Liberty for Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on October 18 in Brooklyn.
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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter at Ballislife, and Sports Content Creator on Twitch and TikTok. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.