WNBA

Aces All in on Championship Push

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The Las Vegas Aces experienced success in the early 2021 WNBA season. The squad is currently second in the league standings with a 15-6 record, just one game behind the Seattle Storm. With Angel McCoughtry out for the season, Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams joining the team, and Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum returning, it was interesting to see how Vegas performed.

Shaky Start

The Aces started the season 2-2, falling short against Seattle and the Connecticut Sun, the other top two teams. However, these early losses for the Aces were good because they learned about the obstacles the rest of the W presents. Vegas then beat Seattle by 16 points in their second matchup. In that game, the Aces discovered an offensive rhythm throughout the game, as the starting five all had at least ten points. Cambage and Wilson both had three blocks that game as well, and the team picked up their first Commissioner’s Cup win.

After falling to the Sun, the Aces won three games in a row before losing to the Sun again. In the second game against the Sun, Connecticut head coach Curt Miller commented on Cambage’s size while arguing with a ref about a call. Cambage took to her Instagram story to address the situation.

After this loss, the Aces went on to win five straight games, beating the Liberty three times, the Dallas Wings, and the Washington Mystics. The game against the Mystics was one of the better games this season. Cambage led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She also laughed while posting up Tina Charles.

Commissioner’s Cup Games

This year was the first time the WNBA implemented the Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season competition between teams in the Eastern and Western conferences. The leaders of each conference play in the Commissioner’s Cup game for a chance to win $500,000.

The Aces finished 3rd in the Western Conference with a 6-4 record in Cup games. Las Vegas swept the Wings and Sparks, split with the Storm and Mercury, and got swept by the Lynx. For a moment, Vegas ranked first on the Cup standings after winning the 3rd game against Seattle due to a tiebreaker.

The last matchup between the Aces and Storm is a candidate for game of the year this season. The two teams went back and forth until the end. When the game went into overtime, the Aces made vital shots in the waning moments. Plum and Chelsea Gray performed superbly in crucial situations. Gray sealed the deal for Las Vegas, hitting the dagger while shifting the reigning Finals MVP Breanna Stewart.

Gray had 21 points, and Plum had 15 off the bench. This win gave Las Vegas the edge in the season series over Seattle.

All In on a Championship

Las Vegas saw improvements with many players. Plum had one hell of a comeback, and Dearica Hamby became an All-Star. Adding Gray to the squad improved their guard depth, and Jackie Young emerged as an MIP candidate. Wilson and Cambage continued to play impressively.

Some critical performances include Plum’s career-high of 32 points against the Liberty, Wilson’s near triple-double against the Wings, and Hamby’s double-double in that same game.

The Aces have five players on their team that represented their countries in this year’s Olympics. Wilson and Gray earned spots on the USA Women’s Basketball team. In addition, Young and Plum are a part of the USA 3×3 Women’s team, which earned the gold medal (with Young replacing Seattle Storm’s Katie Lou Samuelson due to COVID protocol.)

Liz Cambage was initially on Australia’s roster, but withdrew for mental health reasons. JiSu Park represented the Aces for Korea.

This team is off to a great start, although they will have work to accomplish in the second half. It’ll be interesting to see how the Aces look coming back from the Olympic break, but they will be making a run for a title come September.

About Bryce Warner

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