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3 takeaways from Aces’ OT loss: Mystics guards wreak havoc

Updated June 25, 2022 - 10:39 pm

As time was expiring in overtime, Aces All-Star forward A’ja Wilson lined up on the 3-point line with no one around her. Rising up, all alone, she nailed the shot as the buzzer sounded.

It didn’t matter.

The Aces were down four. Wilson was all alone because the Washington Mystics made sure not to foul and give them a chance for a four-point play. Wilson’s shot was merely a formality. The game was decided.

The Aces lost their second straight game, falling to the Mystics 87-86 on Saturday night at Michelob Ultra Arena. It’s the first time they have lost consecutive games this season and was their second loss to the Mystics (12-9).

Players and coaches weren’t made available after the game, as the arena was evacuated because of smoke in the building.

The Aces (13-4) begin a four-game trip Monday against the Los Angeles Sparks at Crypto.com Arena.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game:

1. Wilson’s early foul trouble

The Aces attempted to rebound from Tuesday’s disastrous outing, in which they blew a 28-point lead to the Chicago Sky, but they didn’t get off to a good start. Wilson picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, forcing coach Becky Hammon to give extended minutes to her reserve forwards.

Kiah Stokes was Hammon’s first choice. She was effective against the Mystics’ bigger lineups, but also was called for two quick fouls. With few options remaining, Iliana Rupert made her WNBA debut.

The 20-year-old French forward played nine minutes in the first half, grabbing a rebound and scoring her first points on a layup.

Rupert also got Stokes’ minutes in the second half and got her first assist and 3-pointer. While she occasionally looked lost on defense, Rupert came up with a big stop on guard Ariel Atkins in the fourth quarter.

2. Mystics’ spacing problematic

The Mystics’ starting lineup includes Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin, one of the league’s tougher frontcourts, but Washington’s guards caused the most trouble for the Aces.

Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins and Alysha Clark provided most of the offense in the first half, and the Aces struggled to deal with the amount of space Washington’s shooters created.

The three combined for 30 of the Mystics’ 46 first-half points, shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range.

The space also allowed Washington to move the ball, especially in the first half. Fifteen of Washington’s 18 field goals in the first half were assisted. The Mystics finished with 24 assists, led by Cloud’s 10.

3. Aces fade in overtime

Jackie Young made a step-back 3 from the top of the key to tie the game 80-80 with 7.7 seconds remaining to force overtime, the Aces’ first extra period of the season. But the Mystics scored the only four points in the first 2½ minutes on two free throws and an Atkins jumper, and Aces forward Dearica Hamby fouled out with less than three minutes remaining.

Plum had the answer for the Aces, hitting a step-back 3 from the top of the key to keep them within one, then drawing an offensive foul with less than 30 seconds remaining.

But Chelsea Gray missed a midrange jumper, the Mystics made their free throws, and Plum’s desperate 3-point heave was blocked.

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

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