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Aces hang on again after second straight double-digit blown lead

Updated: May 18

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson (#22) celebrates with teammate Jackie Young (#0) during her career-high 11 assist outing against Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Another hold-off performance for the Las Vegas Aces secured the team a second win in as many tries to open the new year.

Las Vegas downed Los Angeles, 89-82, from the Michelob Ultra Arena Saturday, May 19. It’s the second outing of a four-game homestand to start the year for the back-to-back defending WNBA champions.

“Teams aren’t going to go away,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “People want to beat us and we understand that. I think the thing that encourages me is most of the time it’s us not playing the right way. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, we can’t stop this or we can’t stop that.’”

Now sitting with a 2-0 record, the Aces will welcome in the Phoenix Mercury Tuesday, May 21 in a short turnaround of this past Tuesday’s season opener. Las Vegas took the first meeting by nine points.

Already down seven about midway through the second quarter, the Aces showed their championship merit and went on a 17-1 run to end the frame. As a result of the outburst, the home team took a nine-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

“We were just taking what the defense was giving us,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We knew that we were kind of on the rocks, the first period was okay – we held them to 18 but we didn’t play our best basketball.

“That was a time to really drill in together and work on our stuff and we really took what the defense was giving us. After that, we look up and we’re heading into the locker room a little bit better than we would’ve if we hadn’t done that.”

Rookie Kate Martin logged her first WNBA minutes in the first quarter and would be a big part of the team’s game-changing run. During that 17-1 run, Martin drilled a three-pointer for her first career points.

“She just doesn’t make mistakes,” Hammon said. “She executed our schemes really well, better than some other people maybe at times. She just plays so hard – her urgency and attention to detail has just really been there the whole time.”

Wilson scored 14 of her 22 points coming out of the halftime break as the team stretched the lead to 13, its largest of the game. In the first half, she recorded just eight points on 3-of-10 from the field.

“She’s the best player on the planet, she isn’t going anywhere,” Hammon said. “One-for-eight – she can be 1-for-30, I ain’t taking her out.”

It was the first professional matchup between Wilson and No. 2 overall pick Cameron Brink. In the first quarter, Brink tallied three of her five blocks on the night to go along with three points and eight rebounds. She was held scoreless until the fourth quarter as she dealt with foul trouble for most of the night.

“You have to treat her a little bit like we used to do [center] Rudy Gobert,” Hammon said. “You’ve got to get them out of the paint because if you allow them to just wander there on a typical big, it’s going to make it difficult on your offense.”

Guard Jackie Young posted a career-high 11 assists coupled with 22 points that shared the team-high with the aforementioned Wilson. She also hit the dagger three with just under 20 seconds left in regulation to push it to seven.

“A lot of people looked at us sideways when we drafted Jackie No. 1,” Wilson said. “This is the reason. Her growth because we knew what she’s capable of. Jackie’s one of the best two-way players in this league.

“I remember at halftime I was saying, ‘You’re going to go get a double-double, I can already see it.’”

In total, four Aces players scored in double-figures with guard Kelsey Plum adding 17 points and forward Alysha Clark chipping in with 13 points.


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