Aces post second straight double-digit win on way to 2-0 start
A wild fourth quarter sequence helped the Las Vegas Aces start the new year 2-0 under new head coach Becky Hammon.
Las Vegas beat Seattle, 85-74, Sunday, May 8 from the Michelob Ultra Arena in a Mother’s Day matchup.
This win comes on the heels of a 18-point win over Phoenix to open the new season.
“Overall, our defense won us that game, not our offense,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Which is refreshing as a coach; to know that you can rely on your defense.”
Last season’s Aces team went 2-1 against the Storm. It was the season opener for Hammon and company with stars from several leagues showing up.
San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue were in attendance along with Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
“If I can feel the energy, I know that the players can,” Hammon said. “You could definitely feel the energy when you walked into the arena. I love the energy, I thought they got loud at the right moments.”
Now the team will head back to the road for a two-game road trip that begins in Washington.
“I think if anything it’s a lesson in that if you want to be great, it takes a tremendous amount of effort defensively,” she said. “The last two games we were able to do that. There were stretches where I felt the game got away from us both in Phoenix and tonight. But credit to our girls, we were able to reel it back in.” The game against the Mystics is set for Tuesday, May 10 with tip-off scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be seen on Facebook.
Las Vegas was saved by a block from forward A’ja Wilson that turned into two points on the other end off a layup from guard Chelsea Gray. That sequence put the Aces up nine.
Prior to that, both teams had exchanged back-to-back turnovers in a matter of three seconds.
“I thought we just flat-out over-dribbled at times,” Hammon said. “Get off the ball, pass it. Somebody’s open? Give them the ball.”
Las Vegas turned the ball over 16 times while forcing Seattle into 11 including two crucial ones in the final 2:18 of the game.
Before long, the Aces would build the lead back to double-digits in a game that featured four ties, all in the second half.
After trailing for only 62 seconds through the first six quarters of the season, Las Vegas fell behind late in the third quarter and went into the final frame down one.
“To hold that team to 15 points in the fourth quarter is exceptional,” Hammon said. “Because they have exceptional offensive players. So it took a tremendous amount of effort and the girls locked in.”
Las Vegas responded with a 27-15 outburst in the fourth quarter as all five starters scored in double-figures.
Wilson led all scorers with 20 points to go along with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. She even hit her first three of the year on her second attempt.
“I thought [forward Dearica] Hamby and A’ja were phenomenal,” Hammon said. “In our two games – but I’ve seen it in practice – her defensive effort has been off the charts. As we go through the season, there should be talks about her being one of the best defensive players in the league because she’s proven it night-in and night-out.”
Hamby added 10 points and a career-high 19 rebounds on Mother’s Day in front of her daughter, Amaya.
“Specifically, defensive boarding,” Hamby said when asked about her rebounding emphasis coming into games. “Before the season started, Becky told me she wanted me to get at least seven boards a game so I think I’m off to a good start.”
The 34 combined rebounds by the duo of Wilson and Hamby alone outrebounded a Seattle team that posted 30 as a unit.
Las Vegas had 45 total rebounds as a group.
In addition, the team dominated in the paint, winning the paint battle 42-16.
Guard Jackie Young added 19 points of her own on 6-of-10 shooting including 2-of-3 from three-point range.
“There’s no could be, she is a key to the puzzle,” Hammon said. “There was a stretch there where we were just running some middle pick-and-roll and letting her go to work. She ran it a couple of times and then I said, ‘Run it until the wheels come off. Run it until they stop it.’”
The Aces were limited to 3-of-13 from three-point range before the start of the fourth quarter where the team caught fire, going 4-of-5 the rest of the way.
Guard Kelsey Plum poured in 18 points after being held to just two first half points.
Gray was the other starter in double-figures with 12 points.
Plum and Gray also combined for 11 of the team’s 18 assists.
Las Vegas starters outscored Seattle starters, 79-51.
“We just have flow,” Wilson said. “We have to credit our offense, our offense is spreading us out and we just get our own.
“[Last year], it was get it in the post, pound it in the post, defenders are going to stay in the post. But now, I think it can be anybody’s night and it makes us hard to guard.”