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Hammon, Aces blow doors off Mercury in first showing of new year

Aces forward Dearica Hamby shoots a free throw during a preseason game. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The head coaching career of Becky Hammon is off to a 1-0 start after her Las Vegas Aces got some eight-month old retribution.

Las Vegas beat the Phoenix Mercury, 106-88, in wire-to-wire fashion Friday, May 6 from the Footprint Center to open the new WNBA campaign.

The 106 points are the fourth-most in franchise history. Last year’s team crossed into triple-digit territory seven times.

“We’ll take 1-0,” Hammon said. “The girls came out really locked and loaded, ready to play. [They] locked into the game plan, I liked us defensively especially in the first and second quarters.” In last year’s WNBA Semifinals, the Mercury beat the Aces in five games to advance to the WNBA Finals.

“We joked about it before the game that we owed them one,” forward Dearica Hamby said. “Obviously, they’re not full strength but neither are we. It was a good measuring stick to see where we are.”

A Mother’s Day matchup against the Seattle Storm is next for Las Vegas, marking the team’s home opener.

“The good news is for me, we played well and I know we can play better,” Hammon said. “It was nice to go against a real defense with schemes instead of going against ourselves and practice guys.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Michelob Ultra Arena Sunday, May 8.

Three different Aces scored 20 or more points while five players scored in double-figures, all of which were starters.

“Luckily, all these guys like each other and like playing with each other,” Hammon said. “I mean, 27 assists? In a forty-minute game is really moving the ball and playing with each other. Credit to them, they just kind of bought into what I’m selling them.”

Within the first 6:24 of the game, all five starters had recorded points.

At the first timeout, four minutes into the game, Las Vegas led Phoenix, 13-3.

The Aces built a lead as large as 16 points in the first quarter and would push it to 28 points before the final buzzer.

Hamby led the team in scoring with 24 points on 11-of-14 from the field in her first start since 2019.

The former two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Award winner admitted to feeling a little differently prior to tip-off.

“A little bit I’d say, probably subconsciously,” she said. “[Guard Kelsey Plum] and I – especially Kelsey probably more than me – we feel like we have something to prove. I don’t know, I’m just excited, I’m just looking forward to the season – I’m kind of overwhelmed right now honestly.”

The starting guard tandem of Plum and Jackie Young poured in 20 points apiece.

Young started out perfect from the floor in the first half, tallying 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Last season, she averaged a career-high 12.1 points per game and followed that up by being named Most Valuable Player in Australia in the offseason..

“Yeah, I had a pretty good season in Australia,” Young said. “I really just went over there to work on myself, work on my game, work on myself professionally and just come out being aggressive.”

Plum added a team-high seven assists, six rebounds and a game-high five made three-pointers. Her effort from beyond the arc tied a franchise record for most made threes.

Finishing with an 11-for-21 mark from deep as a team, Las Vegas tied a franchise record for most made threes and were two attempts away from tying the record in that department as well.

“I think for one through five the floor’s open,” Hamby said. “We had a lot of drivers and also I think we shot the three well. Yeah, we shot the three really well so it’s really hard to stop a team that can do a little bit of everything.”

Ninety of the 106 points were scored by the starters on a combined 35-of-55 shooting. In addition, their combined plus/minus was +77 led by Hamby’s +24.

Guard Chelsea Gray recorded 11 points and five assists in 15 minutes while playing on a minutes restriction as part of her return from injury.

“It was nice to have Chelsea back in the mix,” Hammon said. “She brings a lot of experience, obviously playmaking ability for us.”

Early in the third quarter, Gray recorded her 1,000th career assists, becoming the 31st player in league history to do so.

Forward A’ja Wilson had a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double in the win while only attempting eight shots.

“It’s very encouraging,” she said. “When you have people that’s going to hoop and put that ‘thang’ up – let’s not get it twisted, I’ve got a gun, I can let it fly. But when you have players that are in a groove like a Jackie, like a KP and a D – I mean I can just do all that I can to make sure they’re producing the way that they need to.”

Wilson had her double-double at halftime and would help the Aces beat the Mercury on the boards, 38-26.

Phoenix center Tina Charles was limited to 15 points on 5-of-16 from the floor.

“A’ja’s been really good defensively since we stepped on the court,” Hammon said. “She’s really bought in and locked in to what we’re trying to do. Again, we’re playing her at [the center position] so she’s going to have her hands full.”

The Mercury were playing without center Brittney Griner, who’s currently incarcerated in Russia and has been since early February. All 12 WNBA home arenas have and will have a “BG42” located on the floor until she returns to the United States.

“We’re not healthy yet,” Hammon said. “We’re not fully loaded yet but I do feel confident about [our] next woman up mentality.”

Guard Riquna Williams missed the contest (left foot) after being labeled as questionable heading into the season opener.

In addition, center Kiah Stokes also was missing in action after having yet to return from overseas.


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