If being the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league weren’t enough, Las Vegas recently re-engaged with the only team to hand them a loss this season, extracting its revenge in commanding fashion
Las Vegas dumped Connecticut, 102-84, Saturday, July 1 from the Michelob Ultra Arena. It’s the third time this season the team has hit the century mark in points.
The last time the Aces saw the Sun, the team had its 11-game win streak ended one game shy of tying a franchise record of 12 straight Ws. This most recent win extended Las Vegas’ current victory stretch to eight consecutive wins.
“I thought our defense blew,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Just not engaged. We had an honest talk at halftime and [the players] came out – when they want to play defense and are engaged [they’re tough to beat], what I’m trying to do is get that for 40 minutes every time.”
With the win, the Aces improved to 15-1 overall this season while remaining a perfect 8-0 at home. In addition, by beating the second-best team in the WNBA, Las Vegas expanded its lead over Connecticut to three and a half games.
Moreover, the team is 4-0 on this current five-game homestand with the final game of the stretch set for Wednesday, July 5 against the Dallas Wings. That game is slated to tip-off at 7 p.m. from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
The present 14-straight wins at home is a new franchise-record for the Aces.
For the second straight game, Las Vegas used a strong third quarter start to pull away from its opponent. In this one, it was a 16-0 run out of halftime that changed the complexion of the contest for good. Overall, it was an 18-0 run going back to the first half.
“It was Becky [cursing us out],” forward A’ja Wilson said with a smile. “She really shows us what we’re doing wrong and you want to go out there and correct it because that’s the whole point [of why she’s showing us].”
Las Vegas went into halftime up 11 prior to the aforementioned speech by Hammon.
“Becky makes sure that we never lose sight of who we are,” Wilson said. “We have to play Aces basketball for 40 minutes no matter who we’re playing and no matter what the score is.”
In the team’s last game, the Aces went on an 11-0 run out of halftime to put the New York Liberty on their heels and take the winds out of their sails.
Connecticut was outmanned for a vast majority of the game, holding a lead of two points for only 17 seconds. With that, Las Vegas has now trailed for 17 seconds in its last 80 minutes of basketball.
Things began to boil over near the conclusion of the third quarter as Sun forward DeWanna Bonner was assessed a technical foul moments before teammate Tiffany Hayes suffered the same fate. Hayes was ejected in addition to picking up her first and only technical foul.
Hayes was whistled for making “cash money” hand signs by rubbing her thumbs against her other fingers.
As a team, Connecticut was held to just 36 points in the second half after racing out to 48 first half points.
“If we come in with a game plan and I don’t feel it’s working, I’m not sticking with it,” Hammon said. “We’re going to change, we’re going to adjust because at the end of the day [the team’s] buy-in factor and [it’s] effort is the difference maker.”
Guard Kelsey Plum led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-11 from the field including a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range highlighted by 10 points in the first quarter. Plum accounted for four of the team’s seven made threes on a night where Las Vegas shot just over 30% from deep.
During the game, Plum was announced as a reserve for this year’s WNBA All-Star Game set to take place Saturday, July 15 from the Michelob Ultra Arena. Last year, she was the game’s Most Valuable Player in her first All-Star Game.
“Not that I’m surprised, she deserves to be there,” Hammon said. “I appreciate the recognition because, quite frankly, at the beginning of the year it was missing a little bit. So now that they’re starting to get some of these accolades, I’m excited for them.”
Plum now joins Wilson and guards Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray as 2023 all-stars while Hammon and her staff will coach in the exhibition game for the second straight year.
Wilson recorded another double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds in just under 29 minutes on the floor. Her effort helped the Aces win the points in the paint battle by eight.
Connecticut played without center Brionna Jones, who they will be without for the remainder of the year due to a torn achilles.
“Bri is a huge part of their offensive glue,” Wilson said. “We pray for her every single day of recovery for her to bounce back because I know it’s hard for her and hard for her team.”
Forward Candace Parker scored 15 points for the third time in the last four games while dishing out a game-high eight assists.
“She’s just finding her spots,” Hammon said. “Obviously when she hits threes, it’s a little bit of a separation factor for us.”
Young and Gray rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Aces with 11 points respectively. This marked the second straight game where all starters recorded at least 10 points.