Las Vegas were handcuffed for 35 points over the final 24:30 of its latest contest resulting in the team’s third loss of the season.
After leading by nearly 30 points, the Aces lost, 104-95, to the Chicago Sky Tuesday, June 21 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
“If there was ever a loss you could learn from,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “I think this is one of them.” Both teams own a win over the other this season, with both teams claiming a win on the other’s homecourt.
This year’s commissioner’s cup will be played between these two clubs July 26.
“This one should hurt,” Hammon said. “This one they should lose sleep over, I know I’m going to lose sleep over [it].” Las Vegas is now 13-3 on the year and 8-2 at home.
The team’s three-game homestand concludes Saturday, June 25 with a matchup against the Washington Mystics.
Washington beat Las Vegas by 13 points back in early May, handing the team its first loss of the season.
“This is good for us,” Hammon said. “We needed to be kicked in the ass, quite frankly.”
All three of the Aces losses this season have come to Eastern Conference teams.
Las Vegas led for more than 24 minutes of the 40-minute contest highlighted by a franchise-record first quarter.
“That first quarter was one of the most brilliant quarters of basketball I’ve ever seen,” Hammon said. “In a 10-minute quarter, to put up 41 points and then basically after that, they kicked our ass.”
It was a fiery start from deep that set the tone early as the home team opened 3-for-4 from three-point range including makes from forwards Dearica Hamby and A’ja Wilson.
The Aces went 7-for-11 from deep in the first quarter before missing 14 of its last 20 attempts.
Additionally, Las Vegas tallied seven assists on its first seven made field goals.
“I think we’re at our best when we’re getting defensive stops,” Young said. “[When we’re] going in transition and sharing the ball, we just have to make sure we keep doing that. We had a really good first quarter and we just have to keep that up but the biggest thing for us is getting defensive stops.” By halftime, the Aces had recorded 18 assists before being limited to just five in the second half.
“We went rogue for sure at times,” Hammon said. “That’s the one thing when you have a lot of capable players and I tell them all the time, ‘You’re going to fight human nature to want to take it over.’”
Young and guard Kelsey Plum combined to score 22 points in the first quarter, outscoring Chicago’s 18.
The 41-point first quarter for the Aces set a new franchise-record for most points in a quarter. This is the third time this season that the franchise has set a new mark.
At the 4:30-mark of the second quarter, Wilson became the fifth Las Vegas player in double-figures.
Prior to the game, Wilson was named the Player of the Week for the Western Conference for the third time this season.
Wilson finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Young led the Aces in scoring with 23 points with three made threes to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
Plum was the other 20-point scorer, posting 22 points to go along with a team-high eight assists.
Hamby and reserve forward Theresa Plaisance were the others to reach double-digit scoring.
Yet, a 23-11 Chicago run to close the first half shifted the energy in the building in the favor of the defending champions.
“After getting rocked that second quarter – it was really like the last six minutes of that second quarter,” Hammon said. “Then just continued to roll right through that third quarter. I thought we’d be locked in a little bit better but I thought we missed some shots tonight and we let that affect the other side of the basketball.”
In addition, the Sky opened the third quarter on a 14-4 run to close the deficit to just a point.
A 30-11 third quarter for Chicago flipped matters as the road team went into the final frame up eight.
The 28-point lead blown is the largest in WNBA history.
“It sucks,” Wilson said. “I don’t care if it’s two points or 28 points, I told the team in the huddle that I was embarrassed of that and I feel like everyone was embarrassed because you just don’t let that happen.”
Chicago would lead by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter as part of a 53-33 second half showing.
“I thought Chicago was composed,” Hammon said. “That’s why they’re the champs. Anybody can go out and throw a punch. We threw a punch, champs bounce back, champs stay composed, champs play on play after play after play.”
Las Vegas couldn’t stop the bleeding when it mattered most, allowing Chicago to shoot 57% from the field including 48% from three-point range.
Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot led the way with 25 points followed by 17 points from forwards Emma Meesseman and Candace Parker.
“Everything went wrong,” Hammon said. “We followed them around, we tried to take easy routes, we didn’t touch them. Everything that got us the lead, went out the window.”