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3 takeaways: Aces know ‘it’s news if you lose’ after falling to Dream

Updated May 31, 2024 - 9:24 pm

The Aces suffered their second loss of the season Friday, falling 78-74 to the host Atlanta Dream at Gateway Center Arena.

A’ja Wilson had 28 points, nine rebounds and four blocks for the Aces (4-2), who led 60-56 in the fourth quarter before Atlanta (4-2) responded with an 11-2 run to take control. The close contest marked the end of the two-time WNBA MVP’s five-game streak of double-doubles to start the season.

Kelsey Plum had 19 points, while Jackie Young contributed 15 for the Aces.

Allisha Gray, Wilson’s former South Carolina teammate, led the Dream with 24 points, four rebounds and three assists. Some of those buckets were lethal in the fourth quarter as the teams traded leads.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s loss:

1. Struggles on offense

Defense has been Aces coach Becky Hammon’s main point of emphasis so far this season. But the back-to-back champions struggled on the other side of the ball Friday, displaying what Hammon described postgame as “hodgepodge, ugly-ass basketball.”

She said the Aces refused “to do the little things for each other” and played too selfishly.

From the opening tip, the Aces were 0-for-6 from the field with two turnovers as the Dream started on a 7-0 run. Wilson secured the team’s first field goal of the game, connecting on a jumper assisted by Plum with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Wilson went on to score eight points in the period. Hers were the Aces’ only four field goals out of 19 attempts, allowing for a narrow 11-10 lead.

Plum entered the game leading the WNBA in made 3-pointers per game, but even she couldn’t score from the field in the first quarter. Her only first-quarter point came from the free-throw line. She shot 6-for-18 in the game, still recording her 400th career 3-pointer.

When asked about the accomplishment, Plum said she couldn’t care less and would have rather won the game.

2. Blocks and jaws

Hammon also took issue with the team’s discipline, as the Aces sent the Dream to the line for 29 free-throw attempts, 26 of which (89.7 percent) went in. The Aces were 18-for-20 (90 percent) from the free-throw line.

The competitive, physical nature of the game was a factor in the frequent penalties.

Wilson had an emphatic block over veteran Tina Charles late in the first quarter, then another one over Gray in the final minute of the period. It was Wilson’s first-ever block over Gray, and the Dream guard congratulated her close friend and former roommate via social media.

“Ugh good things come to an end … Good block my friend,” Gray wrote with laughing emojis via X.

But as the game continued, attempted defensive plays led to jawing among other opposing players.

Aerial Powers, who recorded seven points, two steals and a block for Atlanta, forced a turnover on Young with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. After converting on the play for two points, Powers celebrated as she got back on defense.

While Young initially smiled through Powers’ antics, it would soon become apparent that tension was building. Young and Powers faced off for a jump ball late in the fourth, which resulted in Wilson gaining possession.

But before the play could unfold, the competitors were in each other’s faces, jawing back and forth. They were both assessed technical fouls. It was Young’s second verbal encounter this season.

“She told me I wasn’t really like that, and I said, ‘I’m really like that,’” Powers told reporters after the game.

Plum and Wilson didn’t entertain a question about the situation, saying that Young doesn’t let things get to her head.

3. ‘It’s news if you lose’

Hammon and Wilson have spoken about embracing increased effort from opponents this season because of what the Aces have already accomplished as a team.

En route to a second consecutive championship last season, the Aces didn’t lose their second game until July 7.

“It’s news if you lose at this point, for the Aces, so we’re going to reset,” Plum told reporters after Friday’s defeat.

The Aces next play at the Dallas Wings at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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