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Second half slump ushers in first loss of season for Aces

Aces guard Kelsey Plum looks to set up the offense against the Phoenix Mercury. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

A lopsided second half resulted in the first loss of the season for the Las Vegas Aces.

Las Vegas was burned by a sluggish second half and wound up losing, 89-76, to the Washington Mystics Tuesday, May 10 from the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington.

“I thought offensively they were better than us,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Defensively, they were better than us and just more locked in so you have to give them credit.”

Through the first two games of the season, Las Vegas averaged 95.5 points per game and won by an average margin of victory of 14.5 points.

Having just one day off in between this past Sunday’s home game against Seattle and this contest raised some fatigue concerns after the contest.

“I don’t even want to blame the flight but we had a little fatigue coming in,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “Coming off that long, behind flight here. But we’re just going to learn from it, grow from it. This was a good test for us to see where we are at mentally,”

Guard Kelsey Plum also gave her take on the travel schedule.

“I think I’m the best conditioned player in this league, respectfully,” she said. “And I feel like to play that type of game against Seattle then to get on a delayed flight for five and a half hours then fly across the country, wake up and play the next day – I mean, I was tired today.

“So if that says anything. And if you guys have ever watched me play, I can go all day. I don’t think it’s necessarily conditioning as much as its the set up of the schedule.”

Now with a 2-1 overall record, the Aces will continue its two-game road trip by heading to Atlanta next for a matchup against the Dream.

Atlanta is now led by former lead assistant coach for Las Vegas, Tanisha Wright. Former Aces General Manager Dave Padover is also with the Dream now.

“We have to go back and watch film,” Hammon said. “Because I thought we passed up a lot of open threes. The turnovers are a huge piece of it but you need your legs to make shots and I don’t think we had it.”

The game against Atlanta will be played Friday, May 13 with tip-off scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

A 24-7 third quarter in favor of Washington began the downward slide for Las Vegas.

“The third quarter is what got us,” Hammon said. “Scoring seven points, that’s not going to cut it in a professional league.”

It was an 18-5 start to the third quarter that turned a 13-point halftime lead for the Aces into a 54-54 tie.

Upon taking the lead back, it was the first lead for the Mystics since 7-5 in the first quarter.

Washington took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter, marking the second straight game where Las Vegas trailed heading into the final frame of play.

“I thought they closed out smartly on us,” Hammon said. “We shot 17 threes but I thought we passed up about 10 of them.”

The fourth quarter brought more misfortune for the Aces as the deficit grew to as many as 17 points.

Las Vegas shot 8-for-32 in the second half after shooting a blistering 19-for-33 in the first 20 minutes.

In addition, the Mystics forced the Aces into 16 turnovers while committing nine on the other end.

“Turnovers are becoming a bit of a problem for us,” Hammon said. “I still trust my players to make the right play so I’m still going to allow them to be who they are. That’s on them to clean it up, I’ll try to help them in spots but they have to go out there and make the right reads.”

It wasn’t all bad for Las Vegas as it raced out to an early lead, grabbing a double-digit first quarter lead for the third time in as many games.

The lead was pushed to 12 after an 8-0 run got things going in the road team’s favor. It would be a 15-point lead before the end of the first quarter of play.

“I think we just honestly got away from our principles,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to credit Washington, they did what they needed to do but at the end of the day, I think it was on us. We went away from the things that got us this far and we can’t do that.”

Washington cut the lead down to five in the second quarter before another Las Vegas run pushed it back to 14.

Plum and guard Jackie Young both recorded 14 points in the first half on a combined 10-of-17 from the field.

However, the pair was held to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting in the second half.

“We were just turning the ball over early in the third quarter,” Young said. “So it’s hard to get into our action. Just being a little bit late driving and driving too deep and turning the ball over. So we just need to get back to doing what we do and reading it early.”

Over the entire 40-minute game, the Aces were only able to race out for two fast break points.

“When you have transition points, you get stops defensively so you can run,” Plum said. “I think that we really didn’t go to our bread-and-butter which was getting stops and being able to wreak havoc and get out in the lanes.”

Wilson finished with a double-double, posting 10 points and 11 rebounds. Every point and all but three rebounds were recorded in the first half.


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