Slot machine shows 7 for Aces and Mystics
Las Vegas’ and Washington’s streaks both went from 6 to 7 on Saturday. The Aces are on a winning run, though, while the reigning champs are falling deeper and deeper in the standings. The depleted roster isn’t competitive in the league right now, especially not against the top teams. The Aces confirm their championship ambition with another strong performance.
Washington’s defense forced a lot of tough shots for Las Vegas in the opening minutes. A’ja Wilson struggled to get easy opportunities all game, resulting in a rather weak and very inefficient scoring output by the MVP candidate. She’d finish the game with a season-low 12 points on 4/13 shooting. Angel McCoughtry’s strong drive to the basket opened up the defense, though. The experienced vet was efficient and productive once again, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes. The Mystics’ early lead was erased by Las Vegas’ aggressive defense, forcing 7 turnovers in the first quarter alone. The Aces went on a 16–3 run to go up 20–10 and would never look back. Essence Carson broke the Mystics’ dryspell with a three-pointer, but the Aces would score 4 more points to claim a double-digit lead again. The second period was more evenly matched, both teams were trading stops and baskets. Emma Meesseman was struggling to find her shot all game (1/8 FG) and couldn’t contain Wilson, neither. Leilani Mitchell was a bright spot for Washington, though, doing a little bit of everything for her team. The veteran guard scored 5 points, grabbed 3 boards and assisted on 3 baskets, too. She wasn’t able to lead a comeback, as the Aces managed their lead and went into the break up 43–31. The advantage almost entirely stemmed from the turnover differential of 11–2. The Mystics shot poorly, too (33%), while the Aces – as usual – took the ball inside for a much more efficient 46%.
In the second half both teams looked like they were in cruise control: The Mystics didn’t seem to put in the effort to mount a comeback as well as the Aces seemed to be happy with their lead. They’d eventually go on a short scoring run, though, finally putting the game out of Washington’s reach. With 2 minutes to go in the third, the Aces were up 64–42, a score that reflected the reality of the game quite exactly. Las Vegas was putting on a defensive clinic and played with poise and routine. They’re clearly the second-best team in the league right now, second only to the Seattle Storm. The final score of 88–73 marked their 7th straight win, a dominant display from Bill Laimbeer’s team. Jackie Young was impressive off the bench once more. Last season’s #1 pick scored a team-high 16 points on 7/13 shooting. The Las Vegas supporting unit saw a lot of playing time, Dearica Hamby (15 points) and Sugar Rodgers (12 points, 4/6 3pt) each scored in double figures as well. Ariel Atkins was Washington’s and the game’s leading scorer with 17 points (7/15 FG, 1/5 3pt).
Sparks‘ hot streak continues against Fever
The Los Angeles Sparks have established themselves in the league’s top tier with their fourth consecutive win. On Saturday, they beat the Indiana Fever comfortably, who now are 4–6 on the season. Kelsey Mitchell and Riquna Williams were tyring to outshoot eachother, both ended up knocking down 7 shots from behind the arc for their respective teams. The Sparks‘ aggressive defense was a gamechanger once again, as the Fever committed 22 turnovers over the course of the game.
Los Angeles jumped out to a 13–4 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game, powered by 6 points at the hands of Nneka Ogwumike, who had a very efficient day, scoring 17 points (8/9 FG, 1/2 3pt) and grabbing 3 boards. Indiana would fight back and cut the deficit to 4 after 10 minutes with a balanced team scoring effort. Los Angeles would run away with the game in the second period, though. Williams came off the bench firing again, as she was the Sparks‘ leading scorer for the third time in a row. She made good on 7 of her 12 tries from long range, boosting the second unit. Removing her from the starting lineup was a winning move by head coach Derek Fisher, not only allowing her to play against weaker opposition, but also making her a primary option on offense. The Sparks shot an outstanding 11/19 from downtown as a unit, now leading the league at 41.8%. Indiana’s defense couldn’t contain Los Angeles‘ shooters and fell behind by double digits during an impressive 23–7 run by the Sparks. The Fever had too many empty trips and too few stops to be competitive. The result: Los Angeles sported a 52–32 advantage at the break and the game was virtually over.
Credit where credit is due, though, as the Fever came out the locker room fighting and trying to at least win the second half of the ball game. Kelsey Mitchell came to life after a quiet (and, frankly, disappointing) first half. She went on to add 22 points to her tally, catching fire from outside. Her 7/9 shooting clinic moves her to 45.5% from three-point range for the season, making her a potential candidate for a 50/40/90 season. Fellow „Splash Sister“ Tiffany Mitchell had a rough night from the floor (4/13 FG), but her free throw shooting (9/10 FT) bailed her out. The dynamic guard duo combined for 43 of the Fever’s 76 points. Their bench was single-handedly outscored by Sparks rookie Te’a Cooper (not to mention Riquna Williams), who posted a new career-high 14 points. Her aggressive defense has become a trademark of the young guard, who’s already made great strides this season. All in all, Los Angeles‘ second unit scored 44 points on Saturday, almost equalling the starting five’s tally. The Sparks‘ depth is impressive and might be a trump card when the season comes to a close in the #Wubble. In the end, the Fever were able to cut the deficit to 14 by winning the fourth quarter 22–13 to tone the blowout down. With their 90–76 win, the Sparks move to 7–3 on the season and are now the league’s third-best team.
Lynx lynch Liberty (again)
It definitely is a rough season for the New York Liberty. The Minnesota Lynx showed no mercy on their quest back to winning ways, bulldozering over the young team from the Big Apple. New York had kept the game rather close in the first half, going into the break down only 33–42.
Minnesota’s offense improved dramatically in the second half, Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield were on an absolute offensive tear, while Jazmine Jones was the only Liberty player to finish in double figures. With Fowles out indefinitely with her calf injury, the Lynx are now Collier’s team. The second-year forward stepped up in this game, but she’ll have to do so in the coming contests as well. The Lynx may have gotten Odyssey Sims back, but it’ll take some time until the veteran guard will be back to 100%. In the injury-induced absence of Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Chennedy Carter, point guard Dangerfield is making a strong case for another ROY award for the Lynx, after Collier had won the last year.
The Liberty will have to quickly forget this one, try to take away the positives and continue to focus on player development and evaluation. Walt Hopkins will try out players and formations over the course of the season to find out who he can rely on for his future plans with the team.