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3 takeaways: Wilson ties WNBA record, but Aces fall to Storm — PHOTOS

Updated June 7, 2024 - 11:35 pm

Before facing the Aces on Friday, Seattle Storm coach Noelle Quinn was asked how to limit star forward A’ja Wilson’s impact.

She paused, laughed and answered, “Pray she has an off night.”

And at first, it seemed like her prayers were answered. Wilson didn’t score at all in the first quarter, and the slow start culminated in the Aces’ 78-65 loss to the Storm at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Wilson eventually found her footing, recording 29 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Aces (5-3). The performance was her 13th consecutive game with at least 20 points, matching Diana Taurasi for the WNBA record.

Kelsey Plum was the only other player in double figures for the Aces with 18 points. Seattle led 36-28 at halftime as the two-time defending champions were held to their lowest scoring output in a first half since 2017.

Jewell Loyd led the Storm (7-3) with 25 points en route to Seattle’s sixth straight victory.

The loss dropped the Aces’ record in Commissioner’s Cup play to 1-1, following a victory over the Dallas Wings on Wednesday.

Next, the Aces will visit the Los Angeles Sparks at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Here are three takeaways from the Aces’ second home loss:

1. Storm game plan works

Quinn said the Storm’s best recourse would be to make Wilson work a little harder on defense than usual. That plan seemed to go off without a hitch, until Wilson caught fire offensively, scoring on three consecutive possessions with a little over three minutes remaining in the third quarter to bring Aces within four points (48-44).

Before that, Wilson showcased her defensive chops, notching back-to-back blocks to close the second quarter. Seconds after stuffing Ezi Magbegor’s attempted layup, she swatted Skylar Diggins-Smith’s shot.

Ultimately, the Storm were as effective as they needed to be. In the first half, Seattle held the Aces to just 10 of 34 from the field and forced 10 turnovers. Diggins-Smith scored 21 points for Seattle, 19 of which came in the second half.

2. ‘Measuring-stick game’

The Aces have been clear about the heightened energy their status as back-to-back champions draws from opponents. Quinn referred to the matchup as a “measuring-stick game,” and she came out of it with a bolstered confidence in the Storm.

Although the Aces have plenty of experience being a target for opposing teams, coach Becky Hammon doesn’t believe the team has the correct mindset.

“Our approach sucks. … I can’t articulate how much teams want to beat us,” Hammon said postgame. “We just have this satisfactory, ‘show up and think we’re going to (expletive) win the game’ approach.”

Plum echoed Hammon’s sentiment at the podium.

“We’re gonna get everyone’s best shot,” she said. “Every game that we play is a measuring-stick game for the other team, and so you know what? That’s on us.”

3. Storm a superteam

Like the Phoenix Mercury, which beat the Aces earlier this season, Seattle made changes in the offseason in preparation for the Aces. Wilson emphasized after the loss that the Storm assembled a giant of a team.

First, they secured the returns of the WNBA’s 2023 leading scorer in Loyd and standout forward Magbegor. They became even stronger by landing two of the league’s top free agents: Former MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith, a six-time All-WNBA selection.

The Aces’ roster garnered plenty of nicknames last season when the team signed WNBA legend Candace Parker in free agency, adding to No. 1 overall picks Plum (2017), Wilson (2018) and Jackie Young (2019). Point guard Chelsea Gray joined the Aces as an unrestricted free agent in 2022. She has yet to play this season due to a foot injury she sustained ahead of the title-clinching Game 4 of the 2023 WNBA Finals.

“When (the Storm’s roster) first came about, I tweeted that it was a superteam. I mean legit,” Wilson said. “That’s something that we will never underestimate because we know exactly what they have in their locker room and the situations that they’ve been in and the adversity that they’ve overcome. So to me, that’s a superteam, and it’s not in the way that they called us a superteam.”

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

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