Did Kelsey Plum make a case for a starting role in Game 2?
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just minutes into the first quarter, Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum sank one of her three 3-pointers in the first frame of her first professional WNBA semifinals game. She triple-clutched her arm, Hulk-style and shouted, “What’s good LaChina?” to ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson.
Plum was quiet for most of the second quarter, but sank a buzzer-beater to put the Aces up 57-50 at halftime. Again she looked in the direction of Robinson before running off the court. Although the Aces fell just short of upsetting the Washington Mystics for Game 1 of their semifinal series, Plum and company showed they are not to be trifled with.
High Post Hoops asked Plum about her chirp to Robinson after the 97-95 loss to Washington in Game 1.
“Oh, I was just messing. I really like LaChina,” Plum clarified after the game. “I was talking to her earlier this morning during shootaround because you know, she had said I was making ‘decent decisions’ last game.”
Plum teasingly took offense to the 11-year WNBA analyst’s word choice.
"“I was like come on LaChina, just say good decisions. Don’t say, decently good, you know? It was like a backhanded compliment. So, anyway, she just was like, you’re right, my bad. And so when I turn and look, I said some of the like, ‘What’s up LaChina?’ Like, talk to me, man! Because you know, I just give her a hard time. But I think she’s one of the best people in terms of our league and how she commentates the game, but still let’s us play and is very unbiased, respects everyone. So I’m really glad that we have her for this series.”"
Even when she wasn’t working towards her 16 points, the 2017 first overall draft pick was effective for an Aces team that started the game rattled. Among a string of first quarter turnovers, Plum grabbed four defensive rebounds and dropped three dimes to keep her team composed. She was also perfect from the floor and recorded a +13 through the half.
Head coach Bill Laimbeer is pleased with how Plum has finally settled into her role.
"“Kelsey Plum played a great game. She’s really engaged right now … she’s putting forth all the energy that I asked her when I first got here. She’s playing the way [now] that I wanted her to play when I first got her. She learned a lot, went through a lot, and I think she’s a big part of who we are right now. Our players know it, our fans know it, and I’m happy for her.”"
So, did Plum make a case to return to the starting line-up? Yes, but don’t expect to see her start Game 2 Thursday night. Laimbeer likes how Plum sees the game when coming off the bench, she herself agreed.
“Well, I kind of like coming off the bench, I can kind of get a feel for the game and what my team needs,” she told the media postgame.
It might also be a way to take some pressure off Plum, who many believe hasn’t played up to her #1 overall selection. During training camp her rookie season, she suffered an ankle sprain ahead of her professional debut that stunted her WNBA growth. Additionally, she’s had to work hard to evolve her defense at the professional level.
“I get a lot of crap from a lot of people,” said Plum Tuesday night. “So I really, I really liked my new role … I think it’s just helps me stay prepared and just enjoying the game.”
Plum seemed to show signs of her old self, or better yet, her pro self. There is no ill will intended by her in-game chirps to Robinson. Yet perhaps Tuesday’s semifinals flex was for the true doubters, haters, and naysayers.
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.