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3 takeaways from Aces’ loss: On wrong side of WNBA history

Updated June 21, 2022 - 10:09 pm

Aces coach Becky Hammon needed only four words to get her feelings across. Not all of them are printable, but it should be fairly easy to guess which one is missing.

“They kicked our (expletive),” she said.

The Aces lost 104-95 to the Chicago Sky, the reigning WNBA champions, Tuesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.

The Sky’s 28-point comeback is the largest in WNBA history and ends the Aces’ winning streak at four games.

Aces forward A’ja Wilson called the performance embarrassing.

“This is gut-wrenching,” she said. “We’re better than that. We’re better than we showed.”

The Aces play the final game of their homestand at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Washington Mystics.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:

1. Defensive collapse

Despite the 41-point first quarter, the hot start from 3-point range and the 28-point lead, the Aces’ defense imploded in the final three quarters after getting too comfortable with the advantage.

“Everything we did that got us the lead went out the window,” Hammon said.

In the final three quarters, the Aces (13-3) were outscored 86-54. The Sky, led by veteran guard Courtney Vandersloot’s 25 points and reserve forward Azura Stevens’ 17 points, slowly chipped away at the lead with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. They found open shots in the midrange, then attacked the basket. The Sky scored 44 points in the paint and shot 57.3 percent.

Hammon said the Aces tried to take easy routes around screens, let the Sky’s shooters pull them out of position and didn’t contest shots well enough to have an impact.

“What got us our lead was not our offense,” Hammon said. “It was our defense.”

2. Offense stalls out late

While poor defense kept the Sky (11-5) close, the Aces’ offense stalling cost them the game. They turned the ball over six times in the third quarter and scored just 11 points, then shot 8 of 20 in the fourth quarter.

Hammon said the team’s poor shooting also made its defense worse.

“We went rogue, for sure,” she said.

Most notably, the Aces stopped moving the ball. After dishing out 18 assists in the first half, they had five in the second.

Hammon said the team has to fight its own nature at times, especially with scorers in her lineup who can take control of a game. Hammon, who has preached sharing the basketball all season, wants the Aces to remember this feeling.

“This one should hurt,” she said. “This one, they should lose sleep over — I know I’m going to lose sleep over it.”

3. Record-setting first quarter

Poor defense and a sputtering offense cost the Aces, but they looked untouchable in the first quarter.

“That first quarter was one of the most brilliant quarters of basketball I’ve ever seen,” Hammon said.

The Aces scored 41 points on 63.6 percent shooting. They were 7 of 11 from 3-point range, punctuated by rookie guard Aisha Sheppard’s buzzer-beater from the right wing. Six players made a 3.

It’s the most points scored in a quarter in franchise history and the second most in the WNBA. The Aces also went on a 23-0 run in the first half, the eighth longest in league history.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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