Las Vegas, NV – The Las Vegas Aces returned to the home floor at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Friday night, and for the first time all season, the starting five of Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young were all effective simultaneously as the Aces completely dismantled the opposition to the tune of a 100-65 victory. The Aces improved to 3-3 on the season and avenged a loss to the same Liberty in their last outing with the huge win, and did so in front of a boisterous crowd that included NBA superstars LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, who took in the game from courtside seats.
This one was never in doubt, as the Aces’ offensive output was the type of balanced attack that Bill Laimbeer and General Manager Dan Padover could have envisioned when assembling this team. Proof of this was seen in all five starters making significant contributions, led by Plum’s 19 points, McBride’s 18 (including a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line), Cambage’s 17 (on 7-for-9 shooting from the field), and Wilson’s 14. With the exception of Jackie Young, each of the five starters scored in double figures. Despite not reaching double figures on Friday, the rookie still had a solid game, providing eight points along with eight assists from her new point guard position.
“I thought our starters showed what they could do, but it’s only one game, one half. So it means nothing except for one win… we’re on to Minnesotta.” -Bill Laimbeer
Cambage’s effectiveness down low was apparent from the outset as she had seven points on 3-for-3 shooting before the game was even three minutes old. Cambage’s effectiveness was also a key factor in freeing up her teammates, as she made a pair of nice touch passes from the low block, once to a wide open McBride spotting up in the corner for a wide-open trey, and another nifty, behind the head, no look pass to a cutting Jackie Young for a nice contested layup. Later it was Cambage and Plum working the two man game to perfection, resulting in a nice spot up three-pointer
Moments later, the Aces lead was up to 16, at 24-8 a sequence in which McBride sank a pair of free throws, then made a beautifully timed dime for a cutting layup by Young; and then McBride once again demonstrated her under-rated passing prowress with yet another precise pass, this time hitting Cambage who expertly converted on the contested layup. The Aces ended the first quarter strong, and headed into the second quarter already up 20.
At this point it was clear that the over 4,000 fans in attendance were definitely not going to go home without being thoroughly entertained, and at this point, the crowd got an extra jolt of unexpected excitement, and star power, when NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook took their courtside seats. As if that wasn’t enough, moments later four-time NBA MVP LeBron James joined them at courtside to take in the action.
By the midway point in the the 2nd quarter, the Aces advantage had balloned to a 33-point lead, much to the chagrin of the Liberty coaching staff, including the legendary Katie Smith, the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball history, who could only watch helplessly as the Aces headed into the lockerroom at halftime with a 35-point lead, 66-31. As has been the case all year, their was virtually no let up when the second unit came in, and the Aces cruised the rest of the way, with the only question hanging in the balance being whether or not the hometown team would reach the century mark, which they did on a free throw by the savvy and sharp Tamera Young.
“We have a lot of quality players, especially a lot of offensive talent. But we’re still learning each other, we’re still learning what we’re capable of. They know they’re growing together, that’s the biggest positive. How to play off each other, we’re very difficult to guard when we move and share the basketball.”
“I thought our starters showed what they could do, but it’s only one game, one half. So it means nothing except for one win. Other than that, I thought I got lots of people some playing time, I got some confidence building going on with our ballclub…We’re on to Minnesota.”
“When we rebound, and we pass the ball like we did, we can run; and we’re very dangerous in the open court.”
“It’s just cool that they show love, just knowing that they have that mutual respect, I think it’s awesome. I mean, those are the best of the best in their league; and they’re such good dudes, they come up and they say wassup and they’re super chill. It was really cool to see them out supporting us.”