A full day after visiting the White House to commemorate the first title in franchise history captured last season, the Las Vegas Aces came up short in a road meeting with the Washington Mystics.
Las Vegas was held to its second-lowest scoring output all season long after losing to Washington, 78-62, Saturday, Aug. 26. Earlier this month, the Aces won the first meeting of the season by 24 points.
“If the refs are going to decide to kind of swallow their whistle, we have to figure out how to step up,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “We’ve got to pack this one up and move on, this is not the end of our season. It’s always national news when we lose a game and that’s just what comes with it but guys, let’s take a deep breath.”
Now sitting with a 30-5 overall record, Las Vegas will look to continue this four-game road trip that will last more than a week at the time of completion. This season, the team is 14-4 on the road after losing its first game of this most recent trip.
“We’re not practicing,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “We can’t. We can’t. We go on the road and play every other day and the Connecticut twice then we go on the road, play every other day and play New York at the end. We go on the road, play every other day and play New York at the end. We can start doing math on that equation too.”
Perhaps the toughest game of the road trip looms as the final regular season meeting with the New York Liberty are up next for the Aces. Through three meetings already this year, Las Vegas has taken two not including the Commissioner’s Cup final which was won by New York.
That final regular season game will be played Monday, Aug. 28 from the Barclays Center.
Washington used a 28-14 fourth quarter to build its largest lead of the game of 16 points. Coming into play, the Mystics were 14-3 when leading after three quarters.
In the game’s opening quarter, Washington raced out to an 11-point lead. With just under three minutes left in regulation, Hammon pulled the plug and inserted her bench.
“We didn’t have any legs,” Hammon said. “We weren’t winning that game. Quite frankly, this was a game I just thought about resting people because we’re tired.”
For the first time since late in the first half, the Mystics snatched the lead away from the Aces in the third quarter with just over a minute and a half left.
Despite only scoring six fast break points in the game, Washington’s biggest aid to victory may have come by not allowing Las Vegas to score any fast break points.
Former two-time league MVP, Elena Delle Donne led the home team in scoring with 21 points after missing the first meeting of the season between these two teams.
“What do you want me to say?” Hammon asked. “She’s a former MVP, yeah she’s good. She affects the game. So when she’s healthy, she’s a problem.”
In addition to Delle Donne, were without key pieces Kristi Toliver and Shakira Austin.
“I feel like usually when we play people they’re going to have everybody healthy,” Plum said. “It’s just kind of the way it goes but you have to give credit to them, they did enough things to win this game.”
After falling behind early in the game, Las Vegas used a 7-0 run to tie the game at 17 apiece. That would be stretched into a 13-2 run in the second quarter and eventually 20-10 as the visitor took the lead briefly.
Plum’s nine first half points counted as the team’s high through the first 20 minutes. She’d finish with a team-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Forward A’ja Wilson added 14 points of her own as part of a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double. Guard Jackie Young rounded out the double-digit scorers with a 10-point outing.
Fellow guard Chelsea Gray had a rougher go at things, accounting for seven points on just 2-of-8 from the field.
“Teams have relegated to just putting somebody in the paint – not guarding one of our players,” Hammon said. “Defensive three seconds is a rule for a reason [...] If the officials aren’t going to call it, I don’t know why it’s a rule.”
Gray did find her spot in other areas of the game, coming up with six rebounds to go along with four assists and two steals.