Coming Up Aces: Las Vegas Aces Win 2 of 3 during busy week

Mercury tie the series

After an impressive stretch wherein the Las Vegas Aces showed their dominance over the Los Angeles Sparks and the Atlanta Dream before falling to the Phoenix Mercury in preparation for their upcoming matchup against the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night; we take our weekly deep-dive into all-things-Aces.

Las Vegas Aces

Sparks Extinguished: Las Vegas Aces 66 – Sparks 58

Aces shutout the Sparks 3-0 in the regular season.

Excluding a preseason 85-point tie, the Las Vegas Aces went undefeated against coach Derek Fisher’s Los Angeles Sparks (6-11) this year as their final regular season matchup ended in a 66-58 Aces victory last Friday. A chippy affair, the win marked the lowest-scoring effort of the season for the hometown heroes as coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad sits atop the league in points per game, averaging over 90.

Key players saw substantial minutes even as honorary mid-season commitments (WNBA All-Star game/Team USA) approach for several Aces. 

Overall, an unimpressive performance for both teams, neither would shoot above 38% from the field. One could criticize Los Angeles for its 3-point percentage at just under 29%, however the Aces shot an abysmal 18% from deep.

While the Aces led throughout the entire game, it was an evenly contested affair that could have gone in either direction. Both teams’ benches contributed with 11 points. Both teams’ starting centers put up similar numbers as league All-Star, and Australian national teammate Liz Cambage scored 10 points to Sparks center Amanda Zahui B., who scored 14. Guard play was also comparable as both the Aces’ and Sparks’ backcourts combined for 25 and 33 respectively. 

The glaring statistic that decided the game, aside from the noticeable absence of LA’s Oguwimke sisters, was the scoreless 28 minutes played by 6-foot-1 Sparks forward Nia Coffey, whose Aces counterpart, A’Ja Wilson went on to have a 20/10 (points and rebounds) performance. 

The imbalanced forward play proved to be too much as the Aces etched out a low-energy win against a team desperately trying to find its identity with a new head coach in Derek Fisher, and without its perennial All-Star Candace Parker who’s been with the team since drafted from her NCAA championship Tennessee Volunteer team in 2008. 

Dreams Dashed: Las Vegas Aces 118 – Dream 95

Kelsey Plum scores her 1,000th career point as Aces best Dream in first meeting of the season.

The Atlanta Dream (6-11), coached by interim coach Mark Petersen and led by the big-three of Tiffany Hayes, Courtney Williams and Chennedy Carter traveled to Las Vegas to take on the star-studded Las Vegas Aces on their home court in the illustrious Michelob ULTRA Arena for their first meeting of the year.

The hometown Aces returned from a successful two-game series against Los Angeles . 

The irony is that a matchup against one of the WNBA’s most lauded players for over a decade was seemingly inevitable. While they may have gotten lucky against a reinvented Sparks team in LA, the Aces would eventually find themselves pitted against decorated league-legend and celebrated NBA and TNT anchor, Candace Parker as the two teams set to square-off in an Independence Day showdown.

Right from tip-off and in typical Aces fashion, an emphatic statement was made by the local team and it came out in every aspect of their game. 

The Aces were clicking on all cylinders and dominated nearly every aspect of the box score. Las Vegas bested Atlanta in all-around scoring as the Aces would shoot 60% form the field and just under 65% from beyond the arc. Additionally, Las Vegas outrebounded Atlanta by 15 and would make a dozen more free-throws than the Dream. 

While coach Peterson had five players in double digits, Atlanta found themselves outmatched as the Aces seemed to score at will. Team USA 3X3 Basketball teammate Plum and 2021 WNBA-All star Dearica Hamby combined for 41 points off of the bench, and outscored the Dream’s second unit on their own. Plum would go on to score her 1,000th career point as the Aces would also set a franchise scoring record.

The prevailing headline isn’t what the Atlanta Dream, who are averaging 84 points per game, did wrong. It’s what the disciplined, well-coached Las Vegas Aces did right as their star continues to rise. Despite a disappointing game from Carter who averages just over 17 points per game, Atlanta played its brand of basketball as Candace Parker went off for 18. Dream teammates Elizabeth Williams and Courtney Williams would also combine for 39 points. 

Directly after their lowest-scoring performance of the season with a lackluster 66-58 win over Los Angeles, the hometown team responded with their highest-scoring game of the year with an overwhelming 118-95 win over the Dream.

Mercury Rising: Mercury 99 – Las Vegas Aces 90

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello’s 7-9 Mercury are 5th in the Western Conference standings.

The Las Vegas Aces and the Phoenix Mercury (7-9) tipped-off for the second time this season on Wednesday in Michelob ULTRA Arena.

Phoenix’s record betrays them. Like the Las Vegas Aces, the Mercury also have multiple players on Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later this month. Guards Skyler Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi will play alongside their teammate Britney Griner (C) and the league’s best as they all collectively strive to win USA Women’s Basketball its seventh consecutive gold medal.

The last time these two teams met, it ended in an underwhelming 85-79 Aces win that saw sporadic offensive explosions on both sides as Mercury center Britney Griner and Aces guard Jackie Young both scored 27 points apiece. 

Griner and company were a team determined.

Like the Aces, the Mercury had five starters and three bench players, and everyone saw minutes. Even in almost every statistical category, Phoenix’s starting lineup simply outscored the Aces as they put on an offensive clinic. 
Mercury center Britney Griner would explode for 33 points on 14/24 shooting and 10 rebounds, while her teammate Skyler Diggins-Smith would contribute with 27 on a lackluster shooting performance. Diggins-Smith would also shoot a perfect 11/11 from the charity stripe as the Mercury exacted revenge and edged out a 99-90 win.

Lynx Unleashed: The Aces host Minnesota on Friday as they look to avenge last month’s one-point loss to the Lynx on their home court. 

On June 25th, coach Laimbeer and his team went in to Minnesota and the Lynx edged out a 90-89 win. Led by Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier and Layshia Clarendon who nearly outperformed the entire Aces team all by themselves, Las Vegas was outmatched as Minnesota’s big-three scored all but 17 of Minnesota’s 90 total points.

Like Wednesday’s game against the Mercury, the Aces again find themselves in a rematch against a tough team they played earlier in the season as they prepare for their last home game before the All-Star/Olympic break. And also like Phoenix, Minnesota is a matchup problem for coach Laimbeer’s team especially in the frontcourt.

The Aces have yet to lose two games in a row this season and they’ll need to stay focused if they aim to escape what many regard as an obvious ‘trap-game’.

Aces tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Michelob ULTRA Arena.