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Clutch Chelsea Delivers Again In Minnesota

Is there any other player in the WNBA you want to have the ball in her hands with the game on the line more than Chelsea Gray?

On Saturday, Gray scored eight straight points in the final five minutes to help the Sparks hold off the Lynx and secure an 89-85 road win and improve to 3-2 on the season.

Gray has been torturing the Lynx in clutch situations for quite some time now – and done so in Minnesota each time!

Game 1, 2017 Finals
Gray delivered the game-winner with two seconds left as she drained a pull-up fadeaway jumper from 16 feet away at the left elbow.

Game 1 of 2018 WNBA Season
Chelsea Gray hits the double-clutch off-balance runner in the lane at the buzzer to give the Sparks a 77-76 win to spoil ring day in Minnesota.

First meeting 2019 season on June 8
Gray hits four clutch buckets in the final five minutes, including a fadeaway six-footer off an inbounds pass with two seconds on the shot clock and 11 seconds on the game clock to put the Sparks up four with nine seconds to play. On a day that Minnesota retired the number 13 of legendary point guard Lindsay Whalen, it was L.A.’s point guard that stole the show.

Just two weeks into the 2019 season and Gray has already shown why she is the queen of clutch. She leads all players with 20 points in 14 clutch minutes this season. Clutch is defined as the game being within five points in the final five minutes.

Clutch Leaders, 2019 Season (By Total Points)

Player Team MIN PTS FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A Plus/Minus
Chelsea Gray LAS 14 20 7-11 2-3 4-4 Plus-7
Jonquel Jones CON 8 11 2-4 1-2 6-7 Plus-6
Tina Charles NYL 10 10 4-10 0-1 2-2 Minus-10
A’ja wilson LVA 8 7 3-6 0-0 1-1 Minus-6
Four players tied at 6 clutch points (Allisha Gray, Essence Carson, Jewell Loyd, Nneka Ogwumike)

 

There are two key reasons why Chelsea Gray is such a great player to look to in clutch moments.

1. Gray is one of the best players in the WNBA at creating her own shot.

Gray has a combination of size, strength and quickness that make her a nightmare to defend one-on-one and in pick-and-roll action. She can get all the way to the basket if you play her tight (like she did against Minnesota in the season opener last year) and she has a great step-back pull-up with just enough of a fadeaway that makes it nearly impossible to block (as she showed in the 2017 Finals and on Saturday).

2. Gray has the confidence in herself – and her teammates have the confidence in her – to take and make big shots.

When the game is on the line, some players want the ball in their hands more than others. Gray is one of those players and her teammates recognized that early.

Go back to Game 1 of the 2017 Finals; there were two MVPs on the floor for the Sparks in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, but it was Gray that got to the call to take the biggest shot of the game (and the season at that point). Gray was in her third WNBA season and first as a full-time starter in L.A., but her coaches and teammates had the confidence in her to deliver under pressure.

Gray has been delivering in the clutch ever since and Saturday was just the latest example. Let’s run down the final five minutes to illustrate how Gray had the answer for every Lynx push down the stretch.

4:49: With the Sparks up eight, Gray gets fouled and calmly sinks two free throws to give her 15 points and push the lead up to 10.

3:20: The Sparks lead has been cut to three as the Lynx go on a 7-0 run behind a 3-pointer from Napheesa Collier and layups by Collier and Robinson that get the crowd roaring.

2:19: After a pair of Sparks misses, L.A. gets a steal and Gray drains a 16-foot jumper to push the lead back to five points and provide a little breathing room.

1:11: The Sparks lead is cut to one as Lexie Brown scores four straight points; she splits a pair of free throws then banks in a desperation, off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock is expiring.

0:52: On L.A.’s ensuing possession, Gray uses a screen from Chiney Ogwumike, dribbles toward the foul line and elevates for a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arm of former teammate Odyssey Sims. She hits the shot to put the Sparks back up by three.

0:09: After Napheesa Collier splits a pair of free throws to cut the L.A. lead to two, the ball is once again in Gray’s hands. This time she misses a step-back jumper, but the ball goes out of bounds to the Sparks with two second left on the shot clock and 11 seconds left in the game. Sparks coach Derek Fisher draws up a play that frees up Gray on the baseline, she gets the inbounds pass from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and delivers with a six foot fadeaway jumper that gets a friendly bounce on the rim and goes through to put the Sparks up four.

0:02: A Sylvia Fowles layup cuts the Sparks lead to two with two seconds left. The Lynx are forced to foul and Riquna Williams sinks both free throws with under a second left to give the final four-point margin of victory.