Homestand ends with blowout win behind season-high from Wilson
Las Vegas ended its four-game homestand the same way it opened it up, with a win.
The Aces beat the Los Angeles Sparks, 104-76, Monday, May 23 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
“We were pretty locked in from the jump,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “With as many threes as we made, which is great. But I was more happy with our defense, holding that team to 76 points [...] When we defend, we become special.”
It’s the third time the team has scored 100 or more points through the first eight games of the season. In addition, the team has now done so in back-to-back games.
Las Vegas is still undefeated at home, improving to 5-0 with the win over Los Angeles.
“So 27 to 7 on assists to turnover ratio,” Hammon said. “In a forty minute game is a really good job. I think they’re getting more comfortable, they’re learning where their spots are [and] they’re getting a little bit more of a flow.”
That’s now five straight wins for the 7-1 Aces as they head back to the road to play the reigning champions, the Chicago Sky.
“I told them tomorrow to do nothing,” Hammon said. “Don’t think about basketball one time. We’ve had a flurry of games here so I need them to take care of their bodies and take care of their minds.
“I’m somebody who believes that happy employees perform better.” Las Vegas will have nearly a week to prepare with the game scheduled for Saturday, May 28.
Tip-off is set for 12 p.m.
Forward A’ja Wilson scored 14 of her season-high 22 points in the first quarter.
“She’s been our leader on both ends of the floor,” Hammon said. “I’m demanding a lot of her and to A’ja’s credit, she has been so unbelievably coachable, so unbelievably humble and so unbelievably good thus far.”
Wilson started the game with back-to-back three-pointers and scored the first eight points of the game for the home team. Additionally, she was responsible for 11 of the team’s first 21 points.
“I just try to put the ball in the hoop,” she said. “My teammates trust me enough to let me do that and I know it’s vice versa for them as well. My confidence is always there, y’all heard me tell [guard Jackie Young] to shoot it so I’m not afraid to tell anyone to shoot it – so of course, I’m gonna shoot it.”
Las Vegas was aided by a 23-3 run in the first quarter to take a lead as large as 20 in the first 10 minutes of play.
“They were locked in,” Hammon said. “They were locked in at shootaround. I thought A’ja really set the tone. Yeah , she came out and made some shots, we know that. But defensively, just worked. Just worked all night.”
Two nights after setting a franchise-record for most points in a quarter with 38, the Aces set a new mark with a 39-point first quarter.
That first quarter included a 76% mark from the field to go along with seven makes from three-point range in eight attempts.
The seven made threes in the first quarter and 11 made threes in the first half are both new franchise-records for Las Vegas on the way to more record-breaking numbers.
That original 23-3 run in the first quarter would get stretched to 31-3 in the second quarter where the Aces led by as many as 28 points. The lead would eventually get to as large as 36 points in the second half.
Wilson led the way in scoring but was followed by four more players in double-figures.
That four-player group included guard Jackie Young, who was named the WNBA’s Player of the Week, prior to the start of the game.
Young poured in 19 points on an efficient 7-of-11 from the field including going 2-of-2 from deep.
In the first quarter, she surpassed 1,000 career points for her career, becoming the 232nd player in league history to accomplish the feat.
Fellow guards Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray were the other starters with double-digit scoring with 17 and 14 points respectively.
“We’re balanced,” Hammon said. “I’m somebody who demands the ball find you if you’re open. It’s really simple – if you’re guarded, move it. If you’re open, shoot it.”
Hammon pulled all starters out of the game with 1:01 left in the third quarter and they would not return.
“Like Kelsey said, ‘The bench is going to be needed,” rookie guard Kierstan Bell said. “When we come in, we know [the starters] need our energy. I think everybody on the bench understands that and I think everybody understands [their] role.”
Bell was the fifth and final player in double figures, scoring 12 points in just 11 minutes on the floor.
She scored her first career points in the team’s last outing against the Phoenix Mercury.
“I just came in confident honestly,” Bell said. “When my name got called, that’s when I went in there and did, just stepped up, brought the energy and stuck to the principles. I let my threes fly, the first one didn’t fall but I know I’m a shooter so that’s why I went and shot some more.”
Bell knocked down the three-pointer that tied the team’s previous franchise-record, No. 16. A little more than a minute later, she set a new team record with the 17th Las Vegas three.
Fellow rookie Aisha Sheppard drained the team’s 18th and final three-pointer of the night, tying a league-record.
All but one player scored for Las Vegas in the contest.
Former Aces center Liz Cambage made her return to the Michelob Ultra Arena for the first time since departing for the Sparks in the off-season.
“Cambage to get nine shots,” Hammon said. “Like that’s really hard to do. [A’ja] was just locked in and we gave her good support behind her.”
Cambage scored five points on a perfect 2-of-2 from the floor in the first 1:48 of the game.
At the 7:54 mark, she picked up her second foul of the game.
From that point, Cambage was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting the rest of the way.
Furthermore, LA forward Nneka Ogwumike was limited to nine points on 3-of-8 from the field in more than 23 minutes of action.