Aces improve to 10-5 ahead of third tilt with Mystics
The Las Vegas Aces sit atop the WNBA standings heading into their third and final regular season showdown with the Washington Mystics.
As of Friday, a date has not yet been scheduled for the Aces and Mystics to resume their July 5 contest that was suspended at halftime. (From last weekend: I tossed out a few dates that would work best for both teams.)
Saturday’s game may lose some of its luster if Mystics All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne does not play. She suffered a broken nose last week against the Sparks. Mystics head coach Mike Thibault listed her as a game-time decision for Saturday. The Washington Post noted that she is still working through steps in the league’s concussion protocol.
The Aces had a quick turnaround from Friday’s game in Las Vegas to play the Liberty in New York on Sunday. They cruised by the Liberty for a second time after New York prevailed in the first tilt between the two teams on June 9.
Then trailing by five entering the fourth quarter on Wednesday, the Aces eked out a win over the Fever to improve to 10-5. Here’s more on the two-win start to the four-game road swing.
No. 1 v. No. 2
Durr blocked two of the attempts and contested the other three well without fouling. Young is shooting 9-of-28 (32.1 percent) in the restricted area per WNBA.com and just 8-of-32 on shots categorized as driving layup shots.
Forcing the issue a bit further—taking an extra dribble, an up fake, something—on the shots that have been more floaters than layups would help.
McBuckets sneaks backdoor
This is a prime example of how spacing becomes so important. The Aces have to keep the lane open enough to have access to that pass when defenders stick on the high side of Kayla McBride in any screening action.
Seeing that cut but not being able to deliver the pass can cause possessions to stagnate, something that should still be seen as a bigger issue for the Aces than some of the other top teams. When they’ve been unable to find something in transition, drop in an immediate entry pass or flow from side to side without aggressive ball denials, the turnovers have piled up.
We still don’t know how good this team can become in those situations, which makes the matchup with Washington—a team that’s quite good at grinding opposing possessions to a halt—so interesting.
Liz got shooters
Now this is dangerous. Liz Cambage plus three shooters (maybe even four if Dearica Hamby steps out) is really tough to defend. Just feed it to Cambage, wait for the double to arrive and set off a pass or two to find the open shooter before the defense can recover.
The Aces aren’t equally dangerous from deep with all of their three-player perimeter combinations. This one—McBride, Kelsey Plum and Sugar Rodgers—has played 30 minutes together this season per Positive Residual, eleven of them with Cambage.
It feels like Rodgers is due for her first big scoring game off the bench. She hasn’t made multiple 3-pointers since June 6. Bill Laimbeer has acknowledged how tough it’s been at times for some of his veterans off the bench to find their legs offensively as their minutes fluctuate.
The occasional Rodgers avalanche, getting out in transition and finding some clean windows coming off of screens, would give the Cambage-plus-bench unit—which has already outscored opponents 99-76 in 40 minutes this season per Positive Residual—a nice boost.
What Cambage means in crunch time in one play
This is why you go and get Liz Cambage when the opportunity presents itself. Her great strength—something Teaira McCowan was not prepared for on that trip—is that ability to face up, put it on the floor and get to the rim to finish or draw fouls at a very high rate.
Laimbeer having that in his back pocket as a viable source of offense that can be leaned on in a pinch will be invaluable come playoff time, especially given the fact that Cambage seems to be the one regular member of the rotation that has avoided the erratic turnovers that have plagued the teams at times this season.
She has the highest usage rate (27.1) on the team per Basketball-Reference with a turnover percentage of just 10.8. Only JiSu Park’s (8.8 in just 67 minutes) is lower.
The Aces were fortunate to cap Wednesday’s comeback. The ball happened to find McBride, who found Wilson for the go-ahead bucket, on a near turnover by Plum in the final minute. (Kelsey Mitchell helped, too, with the inexplicable decision to step in for a 2-pointer trailing by three with less than five seconds to play.)
While it hasn’t always been pretty, this team has continued to bank wins. Now we wait to see them against the best the league has to offer, which could start Saturday in Washington if Delle Donne is active.
The Aces would be seeing the Mystics at full strength for the first time. Star forward Emma Meesseman and guard Kim Mestdagh have re-joined the team with the completion of EuroBasket. Neither was with the team for the two prior meetings in Las Vegas.
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.