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Las Vegas Aces beat Seattle Storm, clinch No. 1 seed in WNBA playoffs

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Wilson's late bucket helps Aces hold off Storm (0:33)

A'ja Wilson caps off a 23-point game with a late fourth-quarter score as the Aces clinch the top seed in the playoffs with an 86-84 win over the Storm. (0:33)

The Las Vegas Aces earned the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs with an 86-84 victory over the Seattle Storm on Sunday.

The Storm are the No. 2 seed. Both teams earned double byes into the best-of-five semifinals, which start next Sunday.

The WNBA playoffs begin with single-elimination first-round games Tuesday, followed by single-elimination second-round games Thursday. The Aces and the Storm finished 18-4, but Las Vegas won both regular-season meetings to get the tiebreaker and top seed.

"That's a pretty good accomplishment for our basketball team," Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We started the year with a lot of uncertainty. To have this kind of success so far, we'll take it. We realize we've won nothing; there's a long way to go. But we put ourselves in position to get into a series with only four teams remaining."

The Aces lost in the WNBA semifinals to eventual champion Washington last year. Center Liz Cambage (medical exemption) and guard Kelsey Plum (torn Achilles) were key players from 2019, but they are not with the team this year.

The Aces' big free-agent acquisition was Angel McCoughtry, who had spent her career with Atlanta. They also added veteran guard Danielle Robinson. In addition, center Carolyn Swords, who had been ready to move into a front-office role, changed her retirement plans and opted to play.

It all worked for the Aces, who are in their third season in Las Vegas. The franchise began in Utah as one of the original WNBA teams in 1997, then moved to San Antonio in 2003. While in San Antonio, the franchise's highlight was finishing first in the Western Conference in 2008. San Antonio then lost in the WNBA Finals that year to Laimbeer's Detroit Shock team.

A'ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby each had 23 points to lead Las Vegas on Sunday. Wilson, a front-runner for league MVP, also had seven rebounds. Hamby, who might repeat as the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, added seven rebounds and eight assists.

"We're in first place, but you don't get a trophy for that," Hamby said. "We've got to lock in on the playoffs. That's when it matters."

Jewell Loyd had 30 points to lead Seattle on Sunday. The Storm were without forward Breanna Stewart (foot tendinitis) and guard Sue Bird (knee). The Aces previously beat the Storm 82-74 on Aug. 22, when Stewart, but not Bird, was in the lineup.