Image courtesy of Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
In one of their most complete efforts of the season, the Las Vegas Aces dominated the New York Liberty on Thursday night, cruising to a 103-76 victory in front of their home crowd at Michelob ULTRA Arena. The victory marked the fourth time this season that the Aces surpassed the 100-point mark in a single game and increased Vegas’ winning streak to five.
Cambage and Wilson Put On Offensive Clinic
Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson dominated in the paint, finishing at the rim and taking advantage of some favourable matchups in the post. Despite being double and triple teamed at times, the duo still had their way offensively, putting up high quality shots and creating space for their teammates.
That sudden increase in spacing was undoubtedly one of the difference makers on Thursday, as the Aces dominated from deep, shooting just under 50% from beyond the arc. The Cambage-Wilson duo went on to contribute a combined 30 points and 16 rebounds, with each player posting impressive stat lines in under 20 minutes of action.
“We knew going in that they were going to have to double our bigs.” said Chelsea Gray postgame. “But I think when we’re getting stops and flowing in transition, we’re really really hard to guard.”
Aces Bench Goes #AllIn
The Aces hashtag on Twitter is #ALLIN, a fitting mantra to the effort they received from their bench on Thursday night.
Beyond the starters, the Aces’ bench put on a show. Kelsey Plum, who has struggled offensively as of late, played well over 20 minutes and led the team in scoring with 18 points. JiSu Park, who hadn’t gotten much playing time behind Cambage and Wilson, came alive as well, leading the Aces in blocks (3) and contributing a respectable seven points in just over 15 minutes of action.
The rest of the bench followed suit.
Rookie Destiny Slocum found herself on the floor throughout the game, Dearica Hamby led the way in playing time (playing just over 30 minutes), and Joyner Holmes joined the party late, hitting a three with about 40 seconds left to ensure every Ace found themselves on the scoresheet.
“I think we have the best team, one through twelve” Hamby said postgame when asked about the Aces depth. “Bill [Laimbeer] has always done a good job orchestrating our bench and I think we proved him right tonight so I’m sure he’s happy”.
Whichever way you look at it, the Aces had their way offensively. With a nearly unstoppable front court backed by the depth that’s coming off the bench, there isn’t any reason to doubt Vegas’ offensive potential and it shouldn’t come as a shock to see why they’re among the top teams in the league when it comes to points per game and field goal percentage.
A Commitment to Defense
Looking past the scoresheet for a moment, the Aces commitment defensively was just as impressive as their offensive numbers. Heading into Thursday’s contest, the Liberty led the league in three pointers made and sat second in three point percentage. While that narrative did continue on Thursday, with the Liberty attempting 38 shots from deep, New York struggled overall, making just 10 threes and shooting just over 30% from the field.
For a team that relies heavily on their perimeter shooting, the Liberty ran into a wall in Vegas, with the Aces closing gaps and limiting open space for New York’s shooters. The Aces weren’t only able to contest shots effectively, but they also took advantage of the misses, running with the ball in transition and often finding open looks of their own.
“We wanted to execute offensively and defensively. Defensively, you want to have certain people taking certain shots. When you have someone like Betnijah Laney coming the other way, you want to give her more attention.” said Chelsea Gray when asked about her team’s defensive energy. “You gotta make it harder for those players to score.”
Dearica Hamby shared a similar mindset. “It’s what I do. Bill [Laimbeer] came up to me during the game and said my offense wasn’t there so I was making sure I was busting my ass on defense.”
A simple answer, yet the perfect way to describe the Aces effort defensively.
Las Vegas now enjoys a week off before they return to action on Friday, June 25th in Minnesota to take on the Lynx.