Aces battered by Sun for first loss since May 10
For the first time in more than three weeks, the Las Vegas Aces have suffered defeat.
Las Vegas had a seven-game win streak snapped when it lost to the Connecticut Sun, 97-90, Thursday, Jan. 2 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
It also was the team’s first loss at home after starting the season 6-0 from The House.
“In any professional league, it’s hard to beat a team two times in a row that close together,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “You can tell it took on a little bit of a playoff-type atmosphere. It got really physical.” Earlier this week, Las Vegas beat Connecticut by eight points to secure the best start in franchise history through 10 games.
As a result, Hammon and forward A’ja Wilson were named the Coach and Player of the Month for the WNBA.
“I think that we were tested tonight and we failed,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “Great teams like that are going to make adjustments and we have to come out and make adjustments as well and be ready to play.
“Listen, everybody in the league wanted us to lose tonight and we did. So we understand we have a target on our backs.”
The Aces are now 9-2 on the year and will conclude a three-game homestand Sunday, June 5 from the Michelob Ultra Arena as they welcome in the Dallas Wings.
“We’re going to watch film,” Plum said. “Defensively, we had schemes that we stick to. And tonight, we did not stick to that.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Connecticut had a lead as large as 19 points in the first half, mainly behind a fiery first quarter.
“Obviously, not the first quarter that we wanted,” Hammon said. “After that, I thought both teams played pretty evenly. But when you start off 19 down, you’re just scratching and clawing to get yourself back into the ballgame.” The Sun used a 13-0 run in the first frame to go up by as many as 18 points on the way to 37 first quarter points.
“We lost the game in the first quarter,” Plum said. “They came out, they punched us in the face, I think they shot like 65-70% from the floor. We were soft.”
However, Las Vegas would use a serious run late in the first half to eventually cut the deficit down to one in the second half.
The deficit went from 19 down to seven on a 20-8 run for the home team, highlighted by an 11-0 run.
Eventually, the Aces would get the scoreless run up to 15-0 as part of a 24-8 run.
“We had to play out of our defense,” Hammon said. “But when you let a team score 37 points in 10 minutes, you know, the night’s over. I told them, ‘I don’t recognize that team.’”
Thirteen seconds into the fourth quarter, with Las Vegas down six, guard Jackie Young went down and appeared to suffer a right leg injury.
Young left the game as the game’s leading scorer with 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting including going 2-of-4 from three-point range.
She started the game a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.
Fellow guard Chelsea Gray also left the game late in the fourth quarter after she was hit in the face. After the game, she received stitches but it was not made clear which part of her face received treatment.
“You’re exerting so much energy just to get yourself back into the game,” Hammon said. “You need everything to go your way. Obviously, losing Jackie and Chelsea down-the-stretch didn’t help.”
Plum poured in 23 points with five made threes to go along with a game-high eight assists.
She also had a take on the game’s physicality level.
“This was the most physical game I’ve ever played in probably in my years in the league,” Plum said. “They reffed it like a playoff game, like a high-level playoff game. It was just super physical, they weren’t going to give us anything. I do feel like it got out of hand at the end.”
Wilson missed her first four baskets from the floor before scoring her first points of the night.
She went on to score 13 points while pulling in seven rebounds, which was tied for the team-high along with forward Dearica Hamby.
Hammon was assessed a technical foul while arguing for a foul call against Wilson.
“I just thought A’ja had been getting hammered all game,” Hammon said. “And she got fouled, in my opinion, five times on one play and there was not one whistle. Look, both teams are beating the crap out of each other. And that’s not the players fault, the players are going to do what you let them do. And the game got out of control, people get hurt, people get T’s.”
Hamby was the fourth and final Las Vegas player in double figures, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Aces bench accounted for five points and have combined for nine points over the last three games.
Connecticut center Jonquel Jones bounced back from her eight-point performance on Tuesday night with a 20-point, seven rebound outing.
She started the night a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor.
“I mean, she made shots,” Hammon said. “I thought we were a little bit late in her pick-and-pop game. Just our attention to detail. That was umm…not our scheme.”
Jones along with forward DeWanna Bonner also helped the Sun beat the Aces in the rebounding category, 37-31.
“They got in deep and sealed us a lot of times,” Hamby said. “And if they didn’t get the first [rebound] they got the second one. We knew that Jonquel would probably come in and touch the ball a little bit more.”
Las Vegas gave up eight second chance points.