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Liz Cambage ‘thankful’ for health after returning for Aces victory

Liz Cambage flashed a grin Sunday after the Aces’ 84-83 victory over at the Phoenix Mercury in the regular-season finale. Finally, she was back to playing basketball. With her teammates.

Healthy again after battling COVID-19.

“I’m just thankful the COVID didn’t get in my lungs. I think I’ve got to thank the vaccine for that,” said the All-Star center. “I’m just grateful to be back with the girls.

“It was tough. It was tough being away from them. Being away from everyone. … I’m just happy to be back and grateful no one else got it as well.”

Cambage played Sunday for the first time since Aug. 28, and recorded four points and four rebounds in 10 minutes as a reserve at Footprint Center. Kelsey Plum scored a game-high 23, Jackie Young had the game-winning putback with 4.3 seconds remaining and JiSu Park blocked Mercury forward Brianna Turner’s shot as time expired, triggering a celebration on the Aces’ sideline.

The Aces finished the regular season with a 24-8 record and enter the WNBA playoffs as the No. 2 seed. They are off until until Sept. 28, giving Cambage ample time to re-acclimate after her bout with the COVID. Phoenix finished 19-13.

“She looked normal,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Conditioning is going to be her biggest factor this week. … I expect her to work very hard in practice, and I expect her to come out and play well in the next game.”

Cambage said she began feeling symptoms Aug. 30 as the Aces returned to practice after a three-game road trip. She promptly departed and returned home to take a nap, only to awake with body aches. The 30-year-old said she took COVID-19 tests to confirm she contracted it.

Her mother, Julia, traveled from Australia to help her battle COVID and work through the WNBA’s health and safety protocols.

“If (she) wasn’t here looking after me, feeding me, giving me all my pain killers and all the stuff from the medical team, I’m just so thankful she was here to look after me,” Cambage said. “She’s the real MVP at the moment. I’m just grateful that it stayed of my lungs.”

Cambage said she’ll be in “training camp” this week fortifying her conditioning and credited her teammates for securing the No. 2 seed. They clinched their spot Friday and a subsequent double bye into the WNBA semifinals, rendering Sunday’s game meaningless in terms of playoff positioning.

“This is a completely new season now,” Plum said. “Whoever going to play next, we have to be ready for and prepared for. Playoffs are a different type of season. It’s a different type of focus, execution level, intensity.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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