Jewell Loyd goes down, Aces prevail late at home over Storm
Bill Laimbeer will take the 60-56 win for his Las Vegas Aces over the Seattle Storm, but the team’s head coach and president of basketball operations wasn’t happy with the overall performance on Tuesday.
“I told the players at halftime I was embarrassed for our franchise, for our team,” he said postgame. “I thought we had no life. An important game like this, a home game that we needed to win. I was embarrassed.
“We won the game but I’m disturbed because any adversity that comes our way, we don’t respond. We let it bother us. We take quick shots. ‘Gotta do it myself.’ We don’t finish shots. We don’t do what we’re trained to do with moves in the post.
“We just go to mush. It has to change. I told them that. If you want to be a championship ball club, you’ve got to be much more mentally tough than we presently are. I’ll take the win. Lucky that we won against a depleted team. We should have lost. That’s a fact.”
The Aces shot 31 percent from the field and 3-of-17 from beyond the arc with 17 turnovers.
Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young shot 1-of-10 from the field. Kayla McBride missed all seven of her 3-point attempts.
The signature matchup of the night featured forwards A’ja Wilson and Natasha Howard. Howard canned two 3-pointers, blocked four shots and continually made life tough on Wilson (4-15 FG) with her length and leaping ability.
“She’s long and she’s very, very jumpy,” Wilson said postgame. “She can time my shot, anyone’s shot. My biggest thing was just focusing on finishing. Half the battle wasn’t her, it was more myself. I’ve got to understand I’ve gotta do different things with different players in this league because they’re just that good. I’m still learning.”
Seattle All-Star guard Jewell Loyd went down in the opening minutes on a fastbreak. The injury was later deemed an ankle sprain. She did not return to the game but rejoined the bench on crutches in the second half.
Liz Cambage (14 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) was a game-high plus-16 in 30 minutes. The biggest struggle for the All-WNBA center on this night was simply getting on the same wavelength with her teammates as she set up inside. Guards struggled to connect on attempted entry passes or hesitated when a passing window was open.
Cambage came through with some of the plays of the game, putting back a McBride miss to tie the game with about three minutes to play, coming away with a steal in the final minute that led to the bucket that put the Aces ahead for good and blocking Shavonte Zellous in the closing seconds to preserve a two-point lead.
Wilson, despite the shooting struggles, made the go-ahead bucket in the lane over Howard and blocked a 3-point attempt by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis that could have tied the game with about 10 seconds to play.
If either of the two parties deserves to find any solace in Tuesday’s result, it’s Seattle, as they trudged on and nearly won on the road with Loyd logging all of three minutes.
“Seattle doesn’t know any different,” Laimbeer said. “They’re an experienced basketball team. They won a championship last year. They still know each other well. They’re going to play and run their stuff, and they’re confident in their team. We don’t seem to be confident in our team right now. I don’t know the reason why. Our chemistry is good.”
Turnovers have been a thorn in the team’s side, disrupting any semblance of flow when the game slows down. The Storm dialed up the pressure at times on Wilson in the post and occasionally on the perimeter in pick-and-roll situations, often forcing either a risky pass or a simple return pass—the least likely to lead directly to an open shot.
“We just throw the ball away for no reason,” Laimbeer added. “It makes no sense. And it’s across the board, it’s contagious. That cannot happen. I need somebody to step up and take control of this team, and I’m struggling.”
Who then, exactly, does Laimbeer expect to take over? He isn’t quite sure yet.
“I don’t know. McBride, I have a lot of respect for her and her competitive nature. She was sick all day long. I don’t use that as an excuse.
“I just think that she has to step up and make those shots. She had all the big shots in the game to put us ahead by more and it didn’t go in. She has to be the assassin out there right now.”
Wilson expects more of a collaborative effort.
“I think it takes all of us to understand what needs to be done,” she said. “Who should we go to in situations? Because we have so many weapons on this team that anyone can bring it. We just have to put people in positions to score the basketball.
“We’ve got a game against an L.A. team who’s finding their way the same way we’re finding ours.”
The Aces travel Wednesday to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks on Thursday before heading home to host the Indiana Fever on Saturday.
Locked On Women's Basketball WNBA Podcast: Host Ben Dull is joined by Sam Gordon to break down Tuesday's game between the Storm and the Las Vegas Aces.
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.