By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
Kelsey Plum views her improved play this season to just having more time on the court.
The Las Vegas guard is averaging a career-high 20.7 points and 5.7 assists this year to help the Aces to the best record in the league. She’s playing a career-best 34.7 minutes a game — nine more than last year when she won the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year award.
“I think if you look at the numbers, points per minute and assists per minute they are pretty close” to last season, Plum said. “Really it’s about opportunity. Coach has me in a little bit of a different role.”
Aces coach Becky Hammon has worked hard to have Plum understand she can be a really good facilitator as well as scorer.
“Her most growth has come with just her willingness to pass and play with her teammates,” Hammon said. “That makes her unguardable since she does so many other things. She understands the pass can be a valuable tool to her offensive game.”
Coaches, players and fans around the league are taking notice as Plum earned her first All-Star nod, being chosen as a starter.
Despite Plum’s solid play, the Aces dropped two of three games and fell behind Chicago in the AP WNBA power poll Tuesday.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Chicago (13-5): A record rally over Las Vegas moved the Sky up the power poll. Chicago came back from a 28-point deficit — the most in league history. The Sky followed it up with a last-second win over Minnesota after nearly blowing a double-digit lead. “This was a huge week for us,” Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It really showed what we’re capable of, that we’re always in a game and that we can finish tight ones.”
2. Las Vegas (14-4): The Aces dropped two games in a row for the first time this season before rebounding with a win over Los Angeles on Monday night. Las Vegas welcomed the return of guard Riquna Williams for the first time in a month after dealing with a foot injury in the win over Los Angeles.
3. Connecticut (13-6): The Sun’s offense has sputtered the last three games as they’ve averaged just 70.7 points — 20 less than their previous seven games this month.
4. Washington (12-9): in a good sign for the Mystics, Elena Delle Donne played in consecutive road games for the first time this season. She was dominant in both of them.
5. Seattle (11-7): The Storm bolstered their roster by signing Tina Charles, who left Phoenix in a “contract-divorce” last week. The veteran center provides more offensive scoring punch in the post for the Storm.
6. New York (8-10): A pair of road wins helped the Liberty continue to rebound from a 1-7 start; New York is 7-3 since stumbling out out of the gate. Sabrina Ionescu continues to play well, averaging nearly a triple-double each night.
7. Dallas (9-10): Teaira McCowan has provided a strong inside presence for the Wings over the last few games with the absence of Satou Sabally, who has a bone bruise on her right knee.
8. Phoenix (8-12): The Mercury seemed to have been galvanized by Tina Charles’ leaving. They’ve won both games since her departure.
9. Los Angeles (7-11): The Sparks haven’t gotten much out of their two major offseason acquisitions. Liz Cambage reached double-figures scoring for the first time this month in Monday’s loss to Las Vegas. Chennedy Carter lately hasn’t gotten much playing time.
10. Atlanta (8-10): The Dream are 3-7 in the month and have missed guard Erica Wheeler (foot injury). She hasn’t played since June 7.
11. Minnesota (5-14): Sylvia Fowles returned from a knee injury and the Lynx are playing better. They enter a pivotal stretch with eight of 10 at home.
12. Indiana (5-15): It’s a busy week for the struggling Fever with games in Phoenix before traveling to Seattle on Friday night. Indiana has gone 2-7 on the road this year.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Courtney Vandersloot of Chicago was voted the AP Player of the Week. She averaged 18.3 points, 5 assists and 3.7 rebounds to help the Sky win all three of their games. She hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Sky to a win over Minnesota. Breanna Stewart of Seattle and Nneka Ogwumike of Los Angeles also received votes.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Mercury at Sky, Saturday. Phoenix has been on a roll the last few games and will be tested when they visit Chicago.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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