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Aces drop fifth game in seven tries, this time to Liberty

Another stumble late in regulation led to the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Las Vegas Aces.

Las Vegas was beaten at home by the New York Liberty, 116-107, from the Michelob Ultra Arena Wednesday, July 6.

This season’s club is 3-5 against teams from the Eastern Conference.

“Caught a good team on a good night,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “The defense was the story for us.”

The Aces are now 8-4 at home after starting the year 6-0 from “The House.”

With a win, Las Vegas would’ve clinched home-court advantage in the Commissioner’s Cup set to be played against the Chicago Sky later this month.

“It’s been hell,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “It sucks when you’re losing. It’s not fun, it’s hard to find the fun. But I feel like now is when you dig deeper than ever before.”

Now, the team sits with a 15-7 overall record at the midway point, still good for first place in the Western Conference. It’s lead over the Seattle Storm is currently a game.

Later this week, the WNBA All-Star Game will be played from Chicago before a three-game road trip awaits Las Vegas on the backend.

New York guard Sabrina Ionescu posted the first 30-point triple-double in league history. In addition, she recorded her third career triple-double, which also ties Chicago forward Candace Parker for the most in league history.

“We did not do what we gameplanned for with some of their personnel,” Hammon said. “I tried a 3-2 [zone], I tried a 2-3 [zone], I tried a box-and-one, I tried blitzing. We were pushing a lot of buttons just to try to find something that worked.” It started right away for Ionescu, who went a perfect 3-for-3 with two made three-pointers in the first quarter for eight points.

However, despite falling into an early deficit, Las Vegas battled back to take the lead on the strength of a 14-3 run to close the first quarter and open the second. Before long, the Aces were up 12.

Both teams traded runs in the third quarter with New York using an 11-0 run to regain control before the home team used a 9-0 run late in the quarter to seize momentum.

“We’re letting people back into the game,” Wilson said. “Because we’re lacking on defense or we’re trying to do stuff that’s not us.”

The game featured 10 lead changes and six ties before the Liberty were able to finally pull away for good in the fourth quarter by winning the final frame by 10 points.

In that final quarter, New York 83% from beyond the arc on the way to 58% for the game on 18 makes in 31 tries.

“I thought we made some mistakes defensively,” Hammon said. “When we did, they made us pay. That’s what good teams do.” Overall, the road team shot 58% from the floor while holding Las Vegas to just under 50%. The Aces did make 48% percent of its 27 attempted threes.

“It’s on us,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to give New York credit, they shot the shit out of the basketball. But a lot of those things break down on us and that’s the worst when it’s us and you can fix it but we’re just not finding a way to fix it.”

That fourth quarter surge allowed for the Liberty to build its largest of the game at 12 points capped off by a floater from Ionescu, before she waved “Goodbye” to the Michelob Ultra Arena crowd.

It wasn’t only Ionescu that caused problems for the Las Vegas defense as backup center Han Xu tallied 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting including two made threes in under 20 minutes of action.

Her lone miss came with 21.8 seconds left in regulation.

Wilson had a scary moment in the first quarter when she blindly ran into a screen from New York’s DiDi Richards, which prompted an offensive foul.

She would leave the game at the 4:16-mark of the first quarter and would return to the floor between quarters. At the 6:09-mark of the second quarter, she checked back in. Upon checking back into the action, Wilson rattled off 10 straight points for the Aces helping the team take an eight-point lead into halftime.

Wilson finished with a team-high 29 points on 7-of-12 from the field with two made threes to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. She also made 13 of her 15 free throw attempts.

“My biggest thing was if I’m healthy and good to go, I’m going to be out there for my teammates,” Wilson said. “The adrenaline wasn’t any different from when I got knocked into Tokyo. But it’s a matter of just trying to produce for my team.

“I look at this -23 plus/minus and it’s shattering my heart because I can’t do that for my team.”

Guard Jackie Young followed her up with a 24-point effort on 8-of-11 shooting including a perfect 2-for-2 from deep.

Guard Kelsey Plum was the last starter in double-figures with 18 points on 7-of-17 from the floor.

The fourth and final Aces player in double-figures was rookie Iliana Rupert, who turned in a career-high 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and continued to show her shooting touch with three made threes.

While the individual numbers were all around, the team recorded just three assists in the fourth quarter after tallying 19 through the first three. Las Vegas finished with 22 total assists on 34 made field goals.

“They have to decide they want to do it,” Hammon said. “Play the right way. [The other] team did. That’s all there is to it, make the right play – whatever it is. And until we do that, we will continue to lose.”

For comparative purposes, New York compiled 35 assists on 42 made baskets.


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