Eight games into their championship defense, the Las Vegas Aces have suffered their first loss of the season. The team’s first loss of the year came to a familiar foe in the Connecticut Sun.
Connecticut became the first team to beat Las Vegas this year, up-ending the team, 94-77, Thursday, June 8 from the Mohegan Sun Arena. With the Aces sitting at 7-1 now on the year, both teams are now a league’s best 14-3 combined after participating in last year’s WNBA Finals.
“It’s going to be the same in the playoffs,” guard Chelsea Gray said when referencing the back-to-back meetings. “We can’t really use that as an excuse. We knew we were going to get another good shot [from] them so I’m not going to say it was that.”
Last season, Las Vegas and Connecticut played in a back-to-back in late May and early June. The Aces claimed the first contest while falling short in the second one similar to this year. In addition, a win for Las Vegas would’ve been the 12th straight win dating back to last season which would’ve tied a franchise record.
This most recent meeting with the Sun marked the end of a four-game road trip for the Aces as the team opened the year with six away games in the first eight games.
Las Vegas now will return home for a three-game home trip as eight of the next nine games will come from the Michelob Ultra Arena. Upon returning home, the Aces have a date with the Chicago Sky.
The first meeting of the year against Chicago will be played Sunday, June 11 with tip-off scheduled for 12 p.m.
After not holding a lead on Tuesday, Connecticut raced out to a 12-point lead in Thursday’s opening quarter. Sun forward DeWanna Bonner started fast with 12 first quarter points after being held to just five in the first game of the back-to-back.
“She got it going in the first quarter,” Gray said. “She got easy looks at the rim or in transition. I think four out of the six of her shots that she made in the first quarter or in the first half were in transition. We can’t let a rhythm player like that get going and not see bodies.”
Bonner would erupt for a career-high 41 points including a 17-point fourth quarter, on her way to 16-for-23 from the field with five made threes and seven rebounds. She helped lead Connecticut to its second straight 30-point fourth quarter against Las Vegas.
While going down by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter, the Aces held one lead in the game at 4-2 early in the first quarter.
Las Vegas was forced into 18 turnovers on the night turning into 17 fast break points the other way for Connecticut. The Aces recorded five fast break points of their own in the contest.
“They had 13 more shots than us in the first half,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “A lot of that was on the boards, it was turnovers, it was running out in transition. You throw the ball to the other team, I don’t know why it’s hard to get back.”
By halftime, Las Vegas had 28 points on the scoreboard which is the least in the first half during Hammon’s tenure as head coach. At the break, the Aces were down 15.
“That was the worst half of basketball I’ve seen us play,” Hammon said. “Scoring 28 points in a half? That’s about as bad as we’ve played. And it was really on both ends – people have gone under on screens on us all year, we’ve gotten good things out of it.
“I just thought they played…They just kicked our asses. No X’s and O’s in the world mattered tonight.”
Plum led the team in scoring with 16 points on 56% shooting including three made threes. About midway through the second quarter, she rolled her left ankle for the second time this year and spent a few seconds on the ground trying to gather herself. Shortly after, she’d head to the sideline to see the trainer before returning to the game.
Forward A’ja Wilson picked up 13 points, four assists, three steals and a block but was held to just two rebounds which is a season-low for her. Her previous season-low was five on two occasions.
Wilson had not been held to two rebounds or less since 2019.
As a team, Las Vegas was out-rebounded by eight while being dominated in the paint to the tune of 40-24.
“They were getting out in transition,” Plum said. “They were getting a lot of o-boards and then I think that we were playing more against their set defense. So they’re getting transition points – I think that we were more physical in the first game, this game we weren’t as physical.”
Gray added 12 points on 50% shooting and a season-low two assists. Her previous season-low was four assists. Moreover, she hadn’t been held to two assists or less in the regular season since Sept. 19, 2021.
Guard Jackie Young was the final player in double-figures with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Forward Candace Parker scored the Aces’ first four points of the game in the opening minute and 58 seconds. She’d be held to just two points the rest of the way in her 21 minutes of action.