Aces Pick Up Where They Left Off With Dominant Start to Season
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it once more: The Las Vegas Aces are primed to make a run to defend their title. The few questions the team had going into the season have so far been answered during the start of the new WNBA year. Vegas put the league on notice that it will be the juggernaut it has the potential to be, starting off with a franchise-record 6-0 mark.
On top of the ring and banner celebrations, the Aces made history during the first week of the WNBA season. They won in dominating fashion, setting records in scoring, scoring differential and three-point shooting. Even with the team effort, the stars of the team put on exciting performances. Las Vegas is still without sharpshooter Riquna Williams, who is nursing a back injury. Adding Williams back into the rotation can give Vegas even more firepower.
Let’s take a dive into how Las Vegas has performed so far this season.
Opener in Seattle
Las Vegas wasted no time in showing its dominance. In the first game of the season, the Aces set the record for the largest margin of victory in a season opener, beating the Storm by 41, in a final score of 105-64. Though Seattle is in the midst of a rebuild, it should not discount how smooth the Aces looked. Following a slow start where the Aces scored 18 points, they poured it on the rest of the way, scoring 87 points in the next three quarters. Led by Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum, Vegas had six players in double figures.
The team also got it done on the defensive end, forcing 13 Seattle turnovers, and dominated the glass, out-rebounding Seattle 50-32.
Aces and Sparks Go Home-and-Home
In a back-to-back series with the Los Angeles Sparks, the Aces continued their exciting style of victory. The first game in Los Angeles was a closer affair; sloppy play and poor shooting had put the Aces in a halftime deficit. However, thanks to the top play of Young, fortunes went the Aces’ way in the second half with Young dropping 30 points on 66.7% shooting. Though league MVP A’ja Wilson struggled shooting from the field, her defense and timely buckets in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for Las Vegas.
Back home, the team had the fanfare of celebrating the championship and receiving its rings in Michelob Ultra Arena. To follow it up, the Aces put up a blowout. Wilson had a bounce-back game with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists on 76.9% shooting. The Aces were phenomenal in transition, scoring 25 fastbreak points. Moreso, the team cut its turnovers in a cleaner game.
Finishing Off Minnesota
Las Vegas finished off its week with another dominant victory against Minnesota in a 94-73 win. Minnesota held the lead for just a few possessions in the first quarter before the Aces’ scoring avalanche took over. Vegas again had five players in double digits, led by Young and Wilson. The “point God” Chelsea Gray had a large contribution with 19 points and 10 assists. As noted before, the Aces love to play a modern, pace-and-space game. Their efficient offense posted a 110.6 ORTG, with their defense just as stifling at 85.9 DRTG.
Thoughts and Looking Forward
Las Vegas is living up to the hype and expectations that the team came into the season with. The team is currently on a four-game road trip, adding wins against the Dream and Fever to improve its record to 6-0. The Aces will have some tests coming up, starting with the Sun on Tuesday night, who the Aces will face for the first time since the WNBA Finals.
Though the team is churning like a well-oiled machine, there is one concern for Vegas: turnovers. Through the first four games, Vegas averaged nearly 14 turnovers per game. Sloppy play and wasting many possessions can be a recipe for disaster. Part of the reason can be the incorporation of new players, but also coasting on the play. For Vegas to unlock its potential of what can possibly be another WNBA dynasty, it needs to cut down on wasted possessions and protect the ball.
An interesting facet to take note of as well is potential MVP candidates. Wilson will be a candidate to go back-to-back, as she is already off to a strong start, averaging 19 points and 9.3 rebounds. However, a dark horse candidate for MVP can be star guard Young. Coming off her Most Improved Player award, Young has continued to improve her game. She is the Aces’ leading scorer, averaging 21.8 points per game. Young is doing this on a hyperefficient 60.0% shooting, and 51.7% from three. If Young can continue to score at will, she can be a strong candidate to be the WNBA’s MVP.
Though the season is still young, these are exciting times for Las Vegas. There does not seem to be championship hangover or issues incorporating new key rotation players. Though the Aces could already be in mid-season form, it will be interesting to see if the team can continue to unlock its potential as the season progresses and competition steepens.