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Las Vegas rocked on road loss to Los Angeles

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson goes up against three defenders during a road game from the Arena. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Following a comeback effort that fell short in the second game of the season, Los Angeles successfully completed the come-from-behind victory over Las Vegas in a wild road loss.

The Sparks beat the Aces, 96-92, Sunday, June 9 from the Arena. In addition, it goes down as the first loss to the LA franchise in five years.

As a result, the two-time defending champs have now lost three of its last four games.

“I’m not terribly mad at the adversity early,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “I want to be healthy late but we just can’t put ourselves in a hole that we can’t dig out of.”

With the loss, Las Vegas drops to 5-4 in the early part of the season and 1-2 in Commissioner Cup games. The team will look to get back on the winning track with a home game against Minnesota Tuesday, June 11 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

“Yeah, we’re in a lull right now,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “Yeah it doesn’t feel great but we have to continue to stick together. If our locker room goes in shambles then we have a bigger problem than just stat sheets and scoreboards.”

Even with the veteran group of the Aces breathing down their necks, the Sparks were able to pull away on a late 12-4 run in regulation. Prior to the run, Las Vegas went on a 14-2 run but had its momentum thwarted by back-to-back LA threes.

Closing quarters is something that helped the Sparks leave the building with the win. The third quarter ended with a quick 4-0 spurt on the heels of some technical fouls.

Aces forward A'ja Wilson looks to start the break. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The Aces had cut the deficit to five points before Wilson took a hard foul to the ground. As she picked herself up off the hardwood, herself along with Hammon were given techs for barking at the referees.

Las Vegas racked up three techs in total in the third quarter including one from guard Kelsey Plum. In total, there were four technical fouls called with the final going to Hammon late in regulation, leading to her ejection.

“Because I stepped over halfcourt,” Hammon said while explaining her ejection. “I was trying to tell [the team] to blitz and then foul. But [I] went too far.”

The fact that the Aces would have an uphill climb couldn’t have been predicted from the way the team started the contest. To open the first quarter, they scored the first 14 points of the game with the first points for the home team coming at the 6:48-mark.

In the opening frame, the lead grew to be as large as 15.

Los Angeles closed the first quarter on a 14-4 run which was started by a 7-0 stretch. That would be coupled with a fast start to the second quarter, elongating the stretch to 23-6 as the team took the lead for the first time.

Wilson posted a monster stat line despite the end result with 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a season-high six blocks. Plum added 24 points with four made threes and five assists.

Guard Jackie Young missed the contest as she recovers from an illness. Subsequently, rookie guard Kate Martin made her first career start in her eighth outing on the floor.

Martin also made her professional debut against the Sparks.

Las Vegas guard Tiffany Hayes looks to create offense against Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“Honestly, I tried not to think too much about it,” she said. “It didn’t mean my job was going to change or my role was going to change. It was going to be the same.”

Playing through some initial nerves, Martin had a perfect first half with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting with three made threes. She’d end the night with 13 points.

“I’m sitting next to the best player in the world,” Martin said while pointing at Wilson. “Not only is she the best player in the world, she’s the best leader I’ve ever been around.

“For the best player in the world to tell me to keep shooting it and keep being aggressive, I feel on top of the world.”

Veteran guard Tiffany Hayes rattled off 17 points in 28 minutes of action and at one point scored seven of her team’s nine points in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“I feel like that’s what made Tiff so great in the league before she retired,” Wilson said. “She just always brought that tenacity, she always brought that fire and I feel like she slowly starts to look at us and we’re like, ‘No, go and do it. We’re trusting you because we’ve played against you.’”


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