White Plains, NY -- Las Vegas, on the heels of an overtime win at Indiana on Tuesday, ventures into Westchester County Center to face the Liberty.
Coach Bill Laimbeer brings his Aces to face his former team and former coach and player, Katie Smith. Adding to the meeting is the appearance of A’ja Wilson, the top player selected in the 2018 WNBA draft and a player many feel will be the cornerstone of this franchise. Las Vegas arrived at 2-7 for the season with New York at 3-4, and both teams coming off close wins against a hard-luck Indiana club.
Liberty get out to a 15-10 lead with Tina Charles getting 11 of those points. As noted before, the Liberty need complimentary scoring. Can’t be all Tina. Interestingly, Wilson at 6-foot-4 is not the tallest Vegas starter. That distinction goes to 6-foot-5 Ji-Su Park.
Aces look to run the latter part of the quarter and the offense gets in gear, allowing the visitors to take the lead.
Las Vegas (23) vs. (21) NY Liberty
Smith is rotating inside players to defend Wilson. Charles, Kia Vaughn and Kiah Stokes get their turns on the defensive end, keeping fresh bodies on Wilson to neutralize her. Laimbeer’s offense, though, is not limited to Wilson, as a number of options are available.
But Wilson is far from just post up. She moves out to hit the mid-range jumper. On another sequence, she gets the ball at the foul line and drives to the basket with the efficiency of a player a foot shorter. On the other side, defensive-oriented Laimbeer knows who he is facing. Aces are doubling down defensively on Charles’ low-post catches. Competitor? Laimbeer has something to say to an official on virtually every call or no call.
Las Vegas (37) vs. (33) NY Liberty
Liberty fall behind by nine early in the period. They start pushing the ball, hoping to get some easy baskets. Liberty get good ball movement and reversals out of the Charles double team. Unfortunately, they struggle to hit even an open fifteen-footer. Bria Hartley scores on a nice penetration move with the seconds winding down. Maybe it is a spark the Liberty need having put together a 12-point third quarter.
Las Vegas (56) vs. (45) NY Liberty
Aces open the period running sets with dribble hand-offs and multiple passes. Two-fold purpose behind this: One, get the best shot available and, two, eat some clock with the lead. Down 16 with six minutes to go, Shavonte Zellous gets two technical fouls and an ejection. On the opposing side, Kayla McBride is having an outstanding fourth, knocking down shots and helping extend the Vegas lead to 22 points.
Liberty scored the game’s last five points to "cosmetically" improve the final score.
Final score: Las Vegas 78 vs. (63) NY Liberty
Las Vegas: Dearica Hambry, 17; Kayla McBride, 16
NY Liberty: Tina Charles, 19
A’ja Wilson of the Aces scored 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Las Vegas: 81
NY Liberty: 75
Las Vegas: 96
NY Liberty: 84