Aces drop to 2-3 in New York
The Las Vegas Aces failed to respond Sunday afternoon out of the half trailing by eight against the New York Liberty. New York quickly doubled its lead and went on to secure their first win of the season, 88-78 over the visiting Aces. More on Sunday’s loss for Las Vegas, now sitting at 2-3 awaiting a rematch with the Liberty on Friday:
Hamby’s foul trouble
Dearica Hamby picked up a second foul in the first quarter and quickly went right back to the bench. That foul trouble and the decision to sit her limited the team’s flexibility up front.
Liz Cambage and JiSu Park played together for the first time all season per WNBA.com. The Aces’ three-point lead began slipping away, and Hamby didn’t return until the Liberty had taken an eight-point lead later in the period.
The transition-fueled run
The Aces missed some very makeable shots in the second quarter. Those stops allowed New York to initiate some early attacks. Tanisha Wright got into the lane and was more-less contained by Cambage, but Jackie Young got caught ball-watching as Rebecca Allen started a cut into the lane.
Hamby’s presence was missed in this matchup because of her ability to cover so much ground and thrive in offensive and defensive transition. Cambage and A’ja Wilson collapsed onto Wright—New York’s least-threatening scoring option on the floor at the time—moments later. On the kick out, somebody had to get to Amanda Zahui B spotting up on the perimeter (Wilson’s matchup at the start of the sequence).
Wilson did get out there, but the distance she had to cover enticed Kayla McBride to slide over as well. Young then slid up to Kia Nurse, McBride’s matchup, paving the way for Allen to crash the offensive glass. Tina Charles buried a jumper later in the possession after Allen’s offensive rebound.
After Sugar Rodgers missed a good look on a 3-pointer from the corner, Cambage missed the easy putback. Allen pushed it up the floor and Charles beat Wilson on a swim move as the ball was reversed to the other side.
The Aces failed to stop the bleeding after the break, making matters even worse with some truly self-inflicted errors. Brittany Boyd knocked down two jumpers, which opponents probably have to live with, though it still hurts at the time to see those go down.
Kelsey Plum overshot an attempted lob into Cambage, who had deep position on Zahui B, fueling a runout for Nurse.
McBride turned the corner around a screen and got her shot blocked by Zahui B, leading to a 3-point play for Boyd.
Wilson threw a careless turnover leading to a breakaway for Bria Hartley. Just like that, the eight-point deficit had doubled.
The Aces first fell behind in part because they simply missed a string of really good looks all in a row. Make or miss league, as they say. Here’s the Aces’ shot chart from Sunday:
1-of-10 shooting on paint shots outside the restricted area and 4-of-16 from midrange simply does not paint an accurate picture of who they are. The Aces are down to 31.7 and 35.5 percent from those zones, respectively, this season per WNBA.com. In 2018, they shot 44.4 and 41.5 percent. Expect them to climb toward that range again.
Some of those misses, especially as they piled up, fueled a lot of what went right for New York in that game.
The mistakes in the third quarter as they tried to close the gap were the only truly troubling part coming off a blowout win in Atlanta over the Dream. If anything, there’s an argument to be made that Bill Laimbeer should have stuck with Hamby to start the second at least until/if she picked up a third foul.
Wilson and Cambage do need to play better. A few of their looks were results of settling. Wilson could not get anywhere near the paint on Charles. That’s where Cambage needed to step in and do more to collapse the defense by attacking her matchup. Speaking of collapsing the defense…
More from Jackie in the halfcourt
The Aces don’t run many plays for Jackie Young, which is understandable. She’s probably the fourth or fifth scoring option in most lineups with this team. But with her bringing the ball up more often, these quick options to get her going out of the corner are a wrinkle worth keeping around.
Opponents have been very willing to sag off of Young in the first place knowing this team is constantly looking to enter the ball to a low block or an elbow. That sets the table for moments like these. Young can get into the lane with ease, especially if that screen connects.
Young earned another trip to the line in the second quarter right before the Liberty started their run. She had the option to enter it inside to Cambage to swing it to Wilson near the top with Plum and McBride spotting up on the opposite time.
Most opposing bigs will have to work so hard just to deny those entry passes, making this a perfect configuration for Young to get involved in some read-and-react 2-player actions.
Finally, as New York had built a bit of a lead, it was encouraging to see Young force the issue late in the shot clock to get to the line again. The Aces weren’t able to get anything going and needed somebody on the perimeter to beat somebody off the bounce.
Maybe this team never truly begins running plays explicitly for Young. Semantics.
They need her to be a threat to score against set defenses. Her ability to strike in transition will always be there. Seeing her find some of those opportunities to attack this early on qualifies as more good news.
We’re only five games in. Laimbeer summed things up afterward, again pointing to his team needing to learn how to win games and sustain a high level of play more consistently.
“New York played a very fine basketball game,” he said. “They wanted this win more than we wanted it, that was the bottom line. We didn’t come out with the energy and intensity from the start. We got down 16 then we started to really play.
“We need to understand how hard we need to play in this league every day and we will be okay. Until then we will be like this. But we’re still learning and we’re still young, so I can’t be overly pissed off.”
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.