In a season where the Las Vegas Aces are vying for the No. 1 spot in virtually every statistical category, they did something they haven't done since early July—lose a basketball game.
The Aces weren’t just beaten by the New York Liberty; they were embarrassed, losing 99-61 as they trailed by more than 40 points for most of the afternoon. In the third quarter, the All-Star-stacked defending champs mustered just nine points; in the fourth, they scored only eight. A'ja Wilson had arguably the worst game of her career, shooting 2-for-14 from the field and her poor performance was a topic of conversation postgame. Wilson shared some matter-of-fact words on the matter.
“But when it comes to me, career-low or whatever my numbers are looking like,” Wilson said postgame. “I could care less about that. Because that’s not going to shatter my confidence.”
1. I see ppl saying I’m concussed .. lol I’m not Doc checked me and said I was good!— A'ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) August 6, 2023
2. I doubt I’ll ever shoot 2-14 again I pray I don’t lol
3. I’m so tired of ppl talking crazy on my name when it comes to this MVP talk (I knew this game was gonna bring it out of ppl lol)… https://t.co/TJqABxbOaT
The Aces and Wilson responded in championship fashion in the following game against the Dallas Wings, winning 104-84 to get themselves back on track. Wilson posted a double-double on her birthday to help the Aces improve to 25-3.
Job’s not finished
Even as their spot in the playoffs is clinched and the No. 1 seed is all but secured, there are a few goals the Aces have left to accomplish.
The first is coming up next week: the Commissioner’s Cup. The game will be held at Michelob ULTRA Arena, meaning it is essentially a home game for the Aces. But with the opponent being the New York Liberty, all eyes will be on this matchup. Can the Aces win their second Commissioner’s Cup? How will they respond versus the Liberty after that tough loss? Are the Liberty legitimately good enough to beat the Aces when the lights get brighter?
Some of these questions will be answered on August 15. And whether they admit it or not, a victory would help ease any negative thoughts lingering from Sunday’s smackdown in Brooklyn, reminding Aces players that they—not the Liberty—are the team to beat.
ONE WEEK OUT— WNBA (@WNBA) August 8, 2023
The @lvaces and @nyliberty will meet in the WNBA Commissioner's Cup Championship game in Las Vegas on August 15th at 9pm/ET. Be sure to tune in to @PrimeVideo to see who will be crowned this year's Cup Champions
WNBA Commissioner's Cup presented by @coinbase pic.twitter.com/nNOpsfd33S
The loss against the Liberty wasn't just a reminder that the Aces are, in fact, human; it hurt their chances of making WNBA history by having the best regular-season winning percentage. The Houston Comets currently hold that record with a winning percentage of .900 and the Aces are just a hair behind at .893. If they win the rest of their games, they'll end the season at .925. With another loss, they'll tie Houston; two more defeats and they'll miss the record.
The Aces stay at 2nd on this list, the Liberty get the win again. We'll see about the end-of-season outcome. https://t.co/6NeIZfEFve— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) August 6, 2023
Every team gives the Aces their best shot, demanding they play with focus and intensity night in and night out. It’s a challenge, but, so far, the Aces have proven to be more than up for it.
Of course, another Commissioner’s Cup title and the best regular-season winning percentage in WNBA history don't mean a thing if you don't win the ring. If the Aces flame out in the playoffs, they will be considered a failure. Balancing attaining every conceivable accomplishment while not jeopardizing the biggest goal—a championship—is something the Aces have been working through all season. As the weeks go on, some of these goals will be met, whereas others might fall short. But either way, the main objective—a second-straight title—will gain more and more significance as we enter September.
Can the Aces have their cake and eat it too? Can they avoid mental burnout and key injuries to become the first team to repeat in 20 years? We’ll soon find out.
The Aces have three upcoming games, first hosting the Washington Mystics on Friday at 10 p.m. ET before welcoming the Atlanta Dream on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.
Then, it’s Aces-Liberty for the Commissioner’s Cup title on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on Amazon Prime and should be one of the most-watched WNBA games of the year. So get your popcorn ready! Unless your name is Kelsey Plum.