A’ja Wilson (30 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three blocks) held things down long enough and Riquna Williams (eight points) made two clutch threes late in the fourth to finally give the Las Vegas Aces breathing room in their 94-82 victory over the New York Liberty on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Wilson went on a 4-1 individual run, which was only interrupted by a technical free throw, to take the score from 80-79 to 84-80 in favor of the Aces with 3:11 to play. Jackie Young then made a free throw with 2:35 to go and Vegas rebounded her miss on the second attempt. That led to a Wilson pass from the paint to Williams on the left wing.
After starting the evening 0-of-4 from distance, Williams buried the shot and made another triple with 42.2 ticks remaining to make the score 91-80.
“It was good to see them go in,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “That was the dagger, that was the game basket.”
“I knew when the ball left her hands and that’s her spot, that left wing” said Aces point guard Chelsea Gray, who had 11 points and nine assists in the contest. “It was a big-time bucket, big-time shot. But the entire game she was playing great defense. That’s not gonna show up in the stat sheet. It felt right that she knocked that down. It felt right that it was her.”
Young (16 points), Dearica Hamby (13) and Liz Cambage (12) all joined Wilson and Gray in double figures. Hamby added nine rebounds.
The Liberty, who were led by Betnijah Laney’s 23 points, were streaky throughout the game, including when they went on a 19-4 run in the second quarter that cut their deficit to four. Rebecca Allen (16 points) scored 14 of the 19.
New York also went on a 12-4 run in the fourth that cut it to 80-79.
“I think that we made some mistakes in this game,” Laimbeer said. “We didn’t play our game when we needed to. We didn’t play smart. We went to jump shot, jump shot, jump shot, jump shot — they couldn’t guard A’ja Wilson in the post, they can’t guard Liz Cambage in the post. So we went a little bit away from our plan of action and it cost us looking back in the game.”
“They are a young team that’s runnin’ and gunnin,’ they feed off energy and sometimes we don’t match that,” Wilson said. “So we have to find other ways to nip it in the butt. Cuz basketball is a game of runs. It’s a great Liberty team, they kept it on us no matter what, and we had to do the same thing we’ve been doing that’s got us to this point — just finding ourselves and staying in our system.”
It was a big win for the Aces, who were coming off a loss to the Connecticut Sun. Vegas beat a good team and improved to 6-3, which has them tied for third in the league. The Liberty fell to 5-3.
Los Angeles Sparks (3-3) over Indiana Fever (1-9), 98-63
With both Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike out, Kristi Toliver stepped up with 22 points to lead the Sparks in this blowout. LA had eight players score at least five points, with Te’a Cooper (15 points), Erica Wheeler (14), Bria Holmes (14) and Nia Coffey (13) all joining Toliver in double figures.
Kelsey Mitchell notched 15 points in defeat. The Sparks led 48-25 at halftime.