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Analysis: Las Vegas notches first-ever WNBA victory

Aces pick up first win in Las Vegas, upsetting the Washington Mystics behind A’ja Wilson’s big night.

Washington Mystics and Las Vegas Aces getting ready for jump ball in Las Vegas on Friday June 1, 2018.
Charles LaRocca

Las Vegas, NV — The Aces had an encouraging showing in their home opener on May 27 against the Seattle Storm. However, they immediately followed that performance with an abysmal showing against that same Storm team. It raised skepticism about whether this Jekyll-and-Hyde, 0-4 Aces team could hang with the previously undefeated Washington Mystics. Not only did they deliver, they dominated: Aces wild.

Story of the game

The story of the game was the consistently spectacular play of A’ja Wilson, who absolutely dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. Her final stat line of 26 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks doesn’t even tell the whole story. The Mystics did not have an answer for her defensively and it lead to 18 free-throw attempts. The Aces also dominated on the glass, finishing with a 38-29 advantage.

For the Mystics, Monique Currie lead the way with 24 points. She did a lot of her damage at the line where she converted 11 times at the charity stripe. The Mystics struggled to maintain momentum, as every time it seemed they were poised to make a run they would find themselves in foul trouble. The Mystic had 5 different players with at least 4 fouls. This caused the bigs to struggle find rhythm throughout the game.

Tired legs

Both the Mystics and the Aces struggled mightily from the three-point line. Each team played the night before, and it showed. Short jumpers were a common theme as the two teams combined to go 5-30 from the behind the three-point line. Tired legs were certainly a factor and it’s no surprise that the winner of this game was won by the team that had the advantage inside. In a game where missed shots and tired legs reared its head, it was getting to the line that made the difference. The Aces finished with 40 free-throw attempts for the game, lead by A’ja Wilson’s 18 attempts.

Key to the win

Dearica Hamby was the closer for the Aces. Aces Head Coach Bill Laimbeer praised Hamby’s effort postgame, saying that her energy changed the game. She had 14 points in only 12 minutes, with 12 of those 14 coming in the fourth quarter. The Mystics made an effort to double-team Wilson in the post, allowing Hamby to take advantage. She made a number of big shots, including a three-point play to push the Aces lead back up to nine after the Mystics had cut it down to six with four minutes to play.

Going forward

This Aces team is young and exciting. It feels like they could be on the cusp of turning a corner. They’ve had showings where you can see the upside and potential, only to follow it up with head-scratching lethargic performances. Led by A’ja Wilson, the Aces have something — even if they don’t even know what it is yet. But Las Vegas now has had two consecutive positive performances at home against quality opponents. That is the first step in the right direction and shows signs that this team is still growing despite a 1-4 record.