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Another loss to New York sends Las Vegas into rare losing streak

Las Vegas guards Kelsey Plum (#10) and Jackie Young (#0) talk near halfcourt at the Barclays Center. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The phrase “losing streak” has not been closely synonymous with the Las Vegas Aces over the last couple of years but after their most recent loss, that’s exactly where the team finds itself.

After another loss to New York, Las Vegas finds itself in the midst of a two-game losing streak, this one by a final score of 94-85, Monday, Aug. 28. This most recent meeting marked the final regular season meeting between the league’s top two teams.

“Game 1 is going to matter just as much as game 31,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I think that’s just so key, we can’t take possessions off and we have to value two points and we have to value the possession.”

Through five games this season including the Commissioner’s Cup final, the Aces are 2-3 against the Liberty this season while being 28-4 against all other opponents. Moreover, the team is now 6-3 in its last nine games including the cup game.

At several points of the game, tempers flared resulting in players from both Las Vegas and New York having to be separated.

“It’s fun, this is when you shine the brightest,” Wilson said. “This is the game that a lot of people want to pay attention to and this is what we’re trying to grow our league to be.”

With back-to-back losses for the first time since August of last year, the Aces are now 30-6 on the season with four more games to play. Three of those remaining four games will take place in Las Vegas.

With that, the team is now done with a four-game road trip that elapsed eight days.

“More than being home it’s just [about] getting some rest,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “We have two days, we have a travel day in there but this was our 11th game in 23 days and that’s two trips to the east coast. That’s a lot – plus a trip to the White House.”

Las Vegas will get a chance to avenge the first loss of these most recent back-to-back Ls when it welcomes Washington in for the third and final meeting of the year. That game is set for Thursday, Aug. 31 from Michelob Ultra Arena with tip-off slated for 7 p.m.

If simply running out of time was a reason for a loss, the Aces may have been able to use that after going on a 10-2 run late in regulation to cut the once 19-point lead down to single-digits. It was back-to-back threes by guard Jackie Young that forced a New York timeout.

“We just have to put together a full 40 minutes and not try to come back in the last five,” Young said. “It’s on us to execute our defensive schemes and get stops.

Aces guard Jackie Young catches her breath on offense against the Liberty. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

New York took a 12-point lead into halftime behind a +9 second quarter that saw it go on a 11-0 run to take a double-digit lead. It was a 7-0 run in the first quarter that turned into a 15-3 run to end the frame and take a three-point lead into the second.

“We made a lot of mistakes defensively,” Hammon said. “I thought we cleaned it up a little bit better. In the second half, we win +3 – it was that third quarter and that stretch from when they called the timeout. From midway through the first into the second, I thought that was the difference in the game.”

Las Vegas implemented its gameplan to get New York center Jonquel Jones in foul trouble early. In the first quarter, Jones picked up two fouls in less than seven minutes. By the time she logged seven minutes, she had three fouls versus just two points.

In addition, former league MVP Breanna Stewart scored her first points of the game with just about two minutes left in the first quarter. She’d finish with 20 points on 9-of-23 from the field. In five total games against the Aces this season, Stewart averaged 17 points on 28% shooting.

Stewart was responsible for hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds in the game to go alongside 10 boards from Jones despite the foul trouble.

Guard Sabrina Ionescu gave the Liberty their first lead of the game on a made three-pointer near the end of the first quarter. In fact, she exploded for 12 points in the final three minutes of the opening quarter.

Just before halftime, she’d hit another deep three to stretch the New York lead in front of a raucous Barclays Center crowd.

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson leaps in the air to defense New York guard Sabrina Ionescu. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“Believe it or not, she’s a focal point,” Hammon said. “So that’s a problem that she’s even able to get 10 threes off – she’s not even supposed to get 10 threes off. I mean that one before the half? I was about to lose my mind.

“It’s inexcusable, it’s borderline negligence and it’s somebody different all the time, it’s not just one person.”

Ionescu led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-14 from the floor including five made threes.

Young and Wilson combined for 47 of the team’s 85 points in the losing effort, led by the former’s 24 points. Wilson scored 15 of her 23 points in the first half, sparked by 10 in the second quarter.

“We have to continue to move the ball and look for the best shot and not the quickest shot,” Hammon said. “That’s a bummer because I thought Jackie and A’ja were pretty good.”

Guard Chelsea Gray nearly posted a triple-double with 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Fellow guard Kelsey Plum fouled out with just nine points on a cold 4-of-14 shooting.

“[The team] has to decide that [it wants] to do it together,” Hammon said. “I thought in that stretch where we missed some assignments – some schematic assignments that are very clear – what makes us a good group is we have a scheme and you’re expected to follow the scheme.

“I don’t want people going rogue offensively and I don’t want people going rogue defensively.”

Reserve guard Sydney Colson logged some big-time minutes, providing a needed energy to the Las Vegas lineup.


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