Aces dominate Liberty at home following Sunday’s loss in New York
The Las Vegas Aces left little to the imagination Friday night as they hosted the New York Liberty five days after falling to 2-3 on the season in Westchester.
“Obviously, we got off to a good start,” Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer said postgame. “Liz [Cambage] set the tone for us in the first few minutes of the game and said, ‘Give me the ball. Let me put it in the basket. No one can guard me.’ Snowballed from there. Plum played a phenomenal first half.”
Cambage opened the game with three buckets in the paint and A’ja Wilson added a quick jumper before New York’s defense got set.
The Aces led 12-2 when Kayla McBride knocked down a 3-pointer after a Liberty turnover. Kelsey Plum pushed the lead to 12 moments later on an inside-out triple from Cambage.
Cambage scored nine of her 17 points in her 6:29 first-quarter stint. 25 minutes remains the ballpark Laimbeer is aiming for with the All-WNBA center as she works into form after dealing with Achilles tendinitis all offseason.
The Aces only needed her for 16 on Friday—good news with a flight and a quick turnaround on the docket. The 3-3 Aces will play the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Plum, Laimbeer talk it out
Laimbeer referenced a chat he had with Plum this week and went on to note that Friday was the best (19 points, 8-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, six rebounds, three assists, three steals) he has seen her play.
“It went really well,” Plum said postgame of that conversation. “Bill is very clear cut about what he wants and I think for me, I just needed some clarity and he gave that to me. He showed me some things on film that I needed to do tonight.
“I’m just grateful that he stuck with me. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to get going. It was a great meeting and hopefully moving forward we’ll just keep it going.”
Plum knocked down two more jumpers off the bounce in the second quarter—a two and a three—and added two more strong drives to score right at the rim near the end of the first half.
The third-year guard also noted how she was able to contribute to the team’s gameplan against perennial All-Star forward Tina Charles (3-10 FG in 17 minutes).
“We talked ball pressure,” Plum said. “We played them a couple days earlier and they were able to have their way with us. Tina is one of the best in the league when she gets the ball where she wants it and I was just trying to do my part and catch it a little bit higher, outside of the lane, and just make those passes in there and that’s what I focused on during the game.”
Sydney Colson (concussion) was listed as questionable in the injury report leading up to Friday’s game and did not suit up. She left the game after a hard fall in the first half of Sunday’s game in New York and did not return. No update was available on Colson’s progress in working through concussion protocol and an eventual return to action.
The six-year veteran provided some insight on the blowout from her point of view on the bench.
On the differences from Sunday’s game…
“Just the start. We came out, we were aggressive. We were throwing it in to Liz. That was working. We were getting stops, and that momentum and that energy carried us to every possession. When we come out and we decide we’re going to be aggressive on both ends, it sets the tone for the game.”
On Plum’s big scoring night and finding her place with Jackie Young taking on more of the ball-handling duties…
“I was telling her it starts when you’re making your stamp on the defensive end. She’s pressuring the ball, got some steals, got some deflections and we’re able to get out and run. Once she sees the ball go in once, it’s easy for her to get going. She kept attacking and being aggressive and that’s what we need her to do.”
On the matchup with a very different Minnesota squad…
“We know that they have a culture of excellence. They’re a good team with a lot of good pieces. We’re going to have to go in and have the same focus that we had for this game. Defensively, we’ll be going against another MVP post player. We’ll need to go in locked into all of our defensive assignments. I think that we’ll like the result if we do those things like we did tonight.”
Smith on Zahui, pace, Johannes
High Post Hoops spoke with Liberty head coach Katie Smith pregame on the team’s big rotation, continuing to push the pace and a hopeful WNBA debut following the conclusion of EuroBasket.
On defining a successful 2019 campaign for Amanda Zahui B as the team’s starting center…
“Similar to what she’s doing right now, which is being able to stay on the floor without fouling. Her defense has been great. Been a great help defender but also on ball with the bigs that we’ve had to battle against. So to battle defensively, I think she’s been locked in. Her rebounding, she’s been aggressive on both ends. She’s putting in the energy to crash, which isn’t easy.
“We’d like to see her shoot it a bit better going forward. Being a threat, being aggressive is key for those percentages to keep going up. If she did this the rest of the year, we’d be happy.”
On what it truly means to push the pace and what her team is looking for early in the clock…
“For me, whether you’re a run and gun team or not, our phrase is: Early and easy, late and smart. We’re always probing and wanting to get easy opportunities to put pressure on the defense and get easier looks before the defense is set. That was me as a player and as a coach—try to find those easy points. When a defense is set, you have to execute.
“It’s being able to, first of all, get stops and then everybody fly and try to make decisions where if it’s a shot for you, then you take it. And execute if they get back and are stopping you.”
On finding minutes for rookie Han Xu…
“Some of it’s matchup. And I think some of it’s Zahui, Tina and [Reshanda] Gray have come in and made themselves really valuable and have played great minutes. We’ve had a nice little rotation with them.
“When Zahui leaves, there will be an opportunity for Han to get a lot of minutes. She’s very comfortable. There are some matchups that, I think, fit her better. But she’s 19. She’s been locked in and has adjusted really well and has been a really quick learner.”
On possibly adding another guard or wing, especially in response to Rebecca Allen’s injury…
“We’re still not under 10, so it’s not an opportunity yet. When Zahui leaves, we’ll have an opportunity to try and sign somebody and try to figure out who that may be. We have a little bit of time until then. But just like a lot of teams, we’ll have to do that as well.”
On the team’s current expectations for Marine Johannes…
“Right now, that’s the plan. Once they’re done. Bria [Hartley] and her are teammates over there. She’s coming after EuroBasket’s over.”
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