The talent is clearly there for the Las Vegas Aces, who boast plenty of star power in Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson. It is the consistency that is currently lacking, which has frustrated coach Bill Laimbeer.
After having its game against the best team in the WNBA suspended by an earthquake, Laimbeer and the Aces hope a change of venue brings a sharper focus Sunday when they play the New York Liberty.
Las Vegas (8-5) appeared to be turning a corner with four victories in five games following a slow start in which the newly acquired Cambage and Wilson had to mesh together offensively. The duo, along with Kayla McBride, showed balance in a 90-82 victory over Chicago – each of them scoring 16 points – ahead of a highly anticipated showdown with the league’s best team – the Washington Mystics.
The Aces, though, wilted Friday night under the bright lights and constant pressure of the league’s best offense at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. They trailed 30-18 after a quarter and 51-35 at halftime when an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale caused the game to be suspended. No resumption date has been set – though the teams play in the nation’s capital Saturday – but Laimbeer again lamented his team’s lack of fight in a high-profile test.
“Mama said there’d be days like this, both with how bad we played to the weirdness of the earthquake,” Bill Laimbeer, who said he did not feel the earthquake, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’m disappointed in the way we showed up again. It’s very frustrating.”
Cambage and Wilson combined for 21 first-half points on 10-of-19 shooting, but their teammates were a combined 5 for 17. Defensively, the Aces allowed the Mystics to shoot 58.8 percent from the floor.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Wilson said. “We just kept talking about the game. How we can get better in the second half, if we played. And we didn’t. … Hate it had to turn out like this.”
Traveling cross-country to face the Liberty that doubles as the opener of a three-game road swing does them no favors. New York (7-7) has reached the .500 mark for the first time this year on the strength of a four-game winning streak and capped a sweep of its three-game road swing with an 80-76 victory at Phoenix on Friday night.
Kia Nurse scored 26 points and Tina Charles added 23, which included a tiebreaking jumper with 50.9 seconds to play. Charles also pulled down 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the season as she also became the seventh player in league history to surpass 3,000 rebounds.
Charles has averaged 22.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in her last five games as she makes a late push to be a seven-time All-Star. Nurse has averaged 19.4 points in her last five games and also shot 8 of 13 from 3-point range and 17 of 23 overall in New York’s last two wins.
The home team has won the previous two games this year, with the Aces pounding the Liberty 100-65 on June 14 in the most recent matchup. Cambage, Wilson, McBride and Kelsey Plum accounted for 68 of Las Vegas’ points, while Charles and Nurse were held to a combined 18 on 6-of-23 shooting.
(Tina Charles photo courtesy Jessica Hill/The Associated Press via NY Daily News)