CHICAGO — The WNBA All-Star Game was in Chicago for the first time ever on Sunday, and the action did not disappoint. In a high-scoring affair, Team Wilson beat Team Stewart, 134-112. Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces was named All-Star Game MVP after scoring 30 points, which tied the All-Star Game record that was previously set by Maya Moore in 2015.
Plum was not shy of her intentions coming into the game, telling LaChina Robinson on Saturday night, “Hell yeah I’m going for MVP.” She did indeed come out gunning, and ended up taking a team-high 18 shots. There was no room for any of her teammates to complain, though, as she knocked down 12 of them to set a new All-Star record for made field goals. Her big game was a bit of redemption after struggling in the 3-Point Contest on Saturday.
“Yeah, something like this, I used to validate how good I was as a player and that’s one of the reasons I struggled in the past,” Plum said. “Like you have highs and lows based on other people’s opinions and accomplishments or benchmarks, and so I think when I stopped identifying with that, I was able to be free.”
“Like today was great, don’t get me wrong, MVP is great, shooting is great, winning is great but at the end of the day, I don’t feel any type of better of a person or any higher of a value of a person than I did when I entered the gym than when I’m leaving it. So that is what I’m most proud of.”
Sunday’s action started off with Team Wilson running a set play to get Minnesota Lynx legend Sylvia Fowles a 3-pointer. She is retiring at the end of the season and participating in her final All-Star Game. Fowles has only attempted one 3-pointer in her historic 15-season career, but she was pure on this one.
After Fowles’ shot, the first quarter turned into the Jonquel Jones show. The Connecticut Sun star hit the first 4-point shot of the day and put up 14 points to help Team Stewart get out to an early lead. Last season’s MVP, she was apparently trying to add another MVP to her trophy case.
But in the second quarter, Fowles and Co. took control. Team Wilson won the second quarter, 36-11 to build a double-digit lead. The turnaround was highlighted by Fowles’ fastbreak dunk. After stealing the ball from Jackie Young, she went coast-to-coast and threw down a slam that brought both teams, and every fan, to their feet.
“I think I just heard the momentum of the crowd,” Fowles said. “I probably heard a couple of benches and seen a couple of faces on the other team and I was like, just go for it. It was just in the moment. I didn’t really think about it.”
“I don’t even remember who I was standing next to but it was like, they were like, uh-oh, she going to do, and I was like, no, we are old — and right when I was about to finish ‘old,’ she threw it down,” Candace Parker said.
Coming out of the halftime break, both teams changed jerseys to honor Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, who is still detained indefinitely in Russia on drug charges. Griner was named an honorary All-Star this year, and both teams wore jerseys with her name and No. 42 on the back.
“Like we say, we are the most unified league in the world honestly and wearing the jerseys was a statement to show that we are BG,” A’ja Wilson said. “Yes, we have the shirts and the pins but BG is one of us. She’s our sister and at the end of the day we are going to do whatever we can to amplify the platform that we have to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to do to make sure that she gets home safely.”
When play resumed, Team Stewart tried to mount a comeback. By the fourth quarter, they had briefly cut the deficit to single digits thanks in large part to Jewell Loyd, who caught fire from 3-point land. Jones also continued to play well and finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Their performances were ultimately not enough, however.
Every time Team Stewart tried to make a run, Team Wilson responded. Sabrina Ionescu hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Candace Parker banked in a 4-pointer to effectively close the show.