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Aces pushed to brink with another wire-to-wire loss to Mercury

Another wire-to-wire loss for the Las Vegas Aces has pushed the team to the brink of elimination in the WNBA semifinals.


The Phoenix Mercury beat the Aces, 87-60, in game three from Arizona to take a 2-1 series lead.


“Our defense was OK,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said with a groan. “We played a little better defensively but offensively we stunk here. A lot of credit goes to [the Mercury], they played very hard on defense [...] We also just didn’t have it offensive-wise today. You look at our numbers, shooting 30%, you’re not going to win any game period.”


It was the second straight wire-to-wire win for Phoenix since dropping game one in Las Vegas.


Game four will take place Wednesday, Oct. 6 from the Footprint Center after the Phoenix Suns agreed to move up their preseason game with the Los Angeles Lakers.


“We have another game to play on Wednesday,” Laimbeer said. “I think we’re going to play our best game in that one.


For the third straight game, the Mercury got out to a fast start, this time to the tune of an 11-0 open.


The Aces did not score their first points until more than two and a half minutes into the game.


“I think we were a little anxious today,” Laimbeer said. “Offensive-wise we pushed the ball well but then we never slowed down. We missed a lot of shots we normally make.”


Phoenix’s lead grew every quarter; 19 in the second, 24 by the third and it ballooned to its largest, 27, in the fourth.


The frontcourt duo of Brianna Turner and Brittney Griner tormented Las Vegas for 41 points on 18-of-32 from the field while collecting 28 rebounds.


As a team, the Aces hauled in 29 rebounds while being outrebounded by 29.


“When you miss a lot of shots like we did, the defensive team is going to get a lion’s share of the rebounds -- there’s no question about that,” Laimbeer said. “We’re going to make some coaching changes, some X’s and O changes and hopefully take some of that away.”


The output of Turner and Griner made up for just nine points from guard Diana Taurasi in 26 minutes.


Aces’ forward A’ja Wilson struggled for a third consecutive postseason game scoring eight points on 2-of-14 shooting.


“A’ja just didn’t get on track today,” Laimbeer said. “And neither did [guard Kelsey] Plum. Those are our two primary scoring weapons right now and it didn’t happen for us. It is what it is, onto the next game. It’s a 200-minute series, we told them that at the start and I continue to believe it’s a 200-minute series. We’re going to win the next game, that’s the plan.”


Wilson finished with a game-worst -31 plus/minus.


In fact, the only Las Vegas player who had a positive plus/minus was center Kiah Stokes (+1), who came off-the-bench for the first time since Aug. 28.


In turn, center Liz Cambage got her first start since that same date, leading the team in scoring with 13 pints on 5-of-9 shooting.


“She just doesn’t have the wind right now,” Laimbeer said. “COVID took a lot out of her. It’s going to have to be one of those things where we manage our way through it. It’s hard when she’s got a couple of baskets in a row and then all of a sudden, she has to come out.”


She also recorded a steal and a block.


Plum and fellow guard Riquna Williams combined for 13 points on 5-of-17 from the floor to go along with a -32 total plus/minus.


Both previously led Las Vegas in scoring in each of the first two games.

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