Cambage ices big home win for Aces over Connecticut
The Las Vegas Aces (16-9) have a tiebreaker on the horizon with the 16-8 Connecticut Sun after Sunday’s 89-81 victory.
But more in-depth discussions of the potential WNBA Finals matchup can wait.
All-Star center Liz Cambage returned to the lineup Friday against the Sky after two games away from the team, listed under the injury report as a DNP-rest each time.
She opened up about the brief absence in Sunday’s piece on The Players’ Tribune.
“It was a bit therapeutic, and I’m a person who likes to live my truth and speak my truth,” Cambage said on publishing the essay. “When I just disappeared for two games, I wanted to be honest about what happened. I’ve been very open about my mental health the last couple of years.
“And I kind of feel like a pillar in some way of support for all the kids out there and the people that are dealing with mental health, so I had to be honest with myself and for them that sometimes strong people aren’t that strong. You see us on the court and you see us out there balling and there’s just more to it. There’s so much more to the sport than just being a basketball player. So I feel like I have to be honest for the people that look after me.”
“Well, I didn’t read the article on purpose because I didn’t wanna answer all your damn questions,” Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer quipped. “Liz can speak for herself. She talked to us about it a couple days ago. I thought [The Players’ Tribune] would be a good outlet for her to express herself.
“We have been very supportive as an organization. I believe she’ll tell you that. We’re going to take care of our players—whatever’s necessary. That’s who we are; that’s who I am. I believe we acted in a very honorable and up front manner as an organization, and we appreciate Liz’s commitment right now to come and really try to play as hard as she can for her teammates.”
“What the NBA is doing, it’s what every sporting organization needs to have,” Cambage added. “We have the people here. I’m already speaking with a sports psych here in Vegas, which is provided by the Aces, but it was probably a little too late. And that’s on me as well. I came in here thinking I was strong and fine. And this whole season, I honestly haven’t been myself. Since being back on my medication, I’m already back playing to my old way. It’s a bit of a bittersweet situation, but it’s what I need to do to be the best basketball player I can be.”
Cambage was limited to 26 minutes Sunday against Connecticut in part due to foul trouble. She still finished with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including two three-point plays late. The Sun closed to within five and had two opportunities to make it a one-possession game.
Cambage first put the Aces up 12 with 4:35 to play, then up by eight again with 1:21 to play after those two Connecticut misses—a Courtney Williams floater in the lane and a Jonquel Jones triple from the top of the key.
“We’ll take the win,” Laimbeer said. “[I’m] playing people a lot of minutes which I don’t necessarily want to do, but I have to do in order to get some wins. We got in foul trouble with Liz and missed her a little bit, but I think [Dearica] Hamby did a nice job on Jonquel Jones the whole game and [Kelsey] Plum got off to a good start and got us going in the first quarter. That was a big positive.”
Jackie Young totaled 13 points and six assists, and Plum added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Plum scored the team’s first seven points. Kayla McBride poured in 18 points and Hamby tallied 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Plum and Young scoring efficiently unlock what might be the scariest version of the 2019 Aces—a balanced scoring attack that doesn’t always need 30-plus point performance from Cambage or Wilson because all five players are consistent scoring threats.
After a tame opening three quarters in the turnover department, the Aces committed eight of their 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter. Cambage had seven and saw different looks from Connecticut’s defense throughout the night, ranging from single coverage by Jones to second and third bodies coming at her.
“We have to read certain situations,” Laimbeer said. “Liz is used to being triple-teamed her whole life. We talked in the locker room a few minutes ago that it’s hit or miss with certain teams. Just be patient. We have to learn how to move and cut when Liz is out there and double-teamed. We’re still young with our whole group and with Liz, and we’ll learn those things.”
“No question that there’s no place for violence in our sport,” he said. “It’s unfortunate and it shouldn’t happen. But at the same time, the frustration level with some of the players is growing dramatically right now. The way the game is being called, the bigs are getting hammered. Brittney Griner just kind of snapped out. We understand that frustration is huge.
“You can’t have more instances like that. Players are keeping themselves in check, but the way the game is being called right now is a bit difficult, especially for the star players. The star bigs especially, the star post players. They’re being hammered and they’re being fouled every time and there’s no whistle. And it’s frustrating them dramatically.”
“It’s very hard,” Cambage told ESPN’s Holly Rowe postgame on the broadcast. “I felt that in my soul last night, what BG went through. The referees let undersized post players, guards, do whatever they want to us. We get harassed every night along the way with slaps, bruises all over my body every night. It’s not fair. Stop trying to suppress our talent. BG and I would have 30 points every night if y’all called the game equally. It’s not equally. It’s disgusting. It’s horrible. And that’s what happened. Last night is an image of where the WNBA is headed if y’all don’t fix it.”
Added Laimbeer when asked if the league had told its teams that games would be officiated differently this season, he said, “It was very clear to all of the coaches and the general managers in this league that the game from the opening tip, the season is being reffed very different than the past. I asked the league specifically if there was a memorandum that went around that they were going to ref it this way. They told me there was no written memorandum that went out about how to referee the game. That’s my statement.”
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