Sky race out to big lead, hold on late over Aces
“Well, that one hurt,” Las Vegas Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer said at the start of Friday’s postgame press conference.
The Aces had multiple opportunities late to pull off one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history after falling behind 18-2 in the opening minutes against the Chicago Sky.
Liz Cambage returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games (rest). The All-Star center scored 28 points in 34 minutes on 12-of-22 shooting.
“Anytime she shows her numbers, it’s a disadvantage to us,” Sky head coach and general manager James Wade said. “So we just try to be more disruptive, get our hands in passing lanes, defend from different angles and just crowd her space.”
Sky starting center Stefanie Dolson drew the primary matchup on Cambage. Per WNBA.com, the Aces shot 31 percent (19-of-61) with Dolson on the floor and 52 percent (12-of-23) during her 13 minutes on the bench. The Sky were outscored 18-7 as Dolson sat the final 5:43 of the third.
“She’s a fighter,” Wade said. “She’s the heart and soul of what we want to do. The last time we played here, she wasn’t able to give us the minutes that we needed because she was in foul trouble.
“Today I told her, ‘We need you on the floor. If something happens where you get into foul trouble, you’ve just got to play through it.’ We know how important she is. She made a big shot at the end. She did some good things where she keeps the floor spread for us, and she’s another player that can make decisions with the ball.”
Meanwhile, Kayla McBride struggled from the field (3-of-15). Laimbeer noted the game as an example of how much the team misses A’ja Wilson (ankle) but did not use the absence to excuse the loss and sluggish start in the slightest.
“But there’s no question, I have to think long and hard about making some type of change,” he said. “We can’t come out every two out of three games and be down double digits in the first quarter because we just don’t have it. That is unacceptable and that can’t happen any longer. I may stay the course. I don’t know.”
More on Friday’s game, dropping the Aces into a tie with L.A. and bringing the Sky within 0.5 games of each.
- The Aces outscored the Sky 12-9 the rest of the first quarter after the 18-2 start, 27-21 in the second and 27-17 in the third.
- Courtney Vandersloot and Jantel Lavender combined for three 3-pointers in the game’s opening minutes, illustrating the pressure Chicago’s starting unit can put on opponents with its five-out attack.
- Lavender did not play in the final 14:38. She left the game in the third quarter with what was later deemed a lower extremity and returned to the bench on crutches.
- Lavender’s absence ate away at some of Chicago’s spacing, but Dolson was able to stay on the floor for the entire fourth and Cheyenne Parker played the final 6:22 with five fouls.
- Calls and non-calls on both sides of the Dolson-Cambage matchup made little sense. Two of Dolson’s five were called as she tried to swim to front Cambage as she posted up. Each was whistled for a questionable offensive foul away from the ball.
- Jackie Young rebounded nicely from a slow start, managing eight points on four shooting possessions after an 0-for-3 start.
- The Aces managed 19—not a typo—offensive rebounds. No possession described the Aces’ night better than one in crunch time as they extended the trip with three offensive boards only to turn it over coming out of a timeout.
- Sugar Rodgers got loose for a season-high seven 3-point attempts. She made four of them, including one in transition, another coming off a screen and two by quickly relocating to shake free from the careful watch of Diamond DeShields.
- After the game was tied at 74 with 5:21 to play, the Aces turned it over on three of their final 10 possessions, including one by Cambage as the Sky were clinging to a one-point lead. Chicago led the rest of the way after Dolson’s triple at the 3:02 mark.
- McBride missed an open triple and Dolson made one of the plays of the game, forcing a jump ball with Cambage on the attempted putback with 32.6 to play. The Aces won the tip and found Cambage near the right block. She was triple-teamed and overshot Hamby diving to the rim.
- Coming out of a timeout, 10.4 seconds ran off the clock before the Aces fouled to send Vandersloot to the line.
- The Aces host Connecticut, currently tied with Washington atop the standings at 16-7, on Sunday in their second meeting of the season.
A deep dive into an early-season turnover issue for the Las Vegas Aces plus the latest from Bill Laimbeer on his team's 1-2 start to the 2019 WNBA season.
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