Updated September 2, 2023 - 11:12 pm
The Aces are still the masters of their own fate.
If they win their final two games — both against the last-place Phoenix Mercury — the Aces get home-court advantage through the playoffs, despite the late-season surge by the New York Liberty.
The Aces’ 103-77 win Saturday against the Seattle Storm was another step in the right direction.
“Everything we want to accomplish is right in front of us,” coach Becky Hammon said before the game. “It’s up to us to go and grab it.”
A fourth-quarter run propelled the Aces (32-6) past the Storm (11-26) in front of 9,319 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena. It’s the 10th time the Aces have broken the 100-point threshold this season, tying the WNBA record set by the Phoenix Mercury. The Aces’ 18th home victory also set a new league record, surpassing the 2010 Storm.
Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Aces. This is her fourth game with 30 or more points this season and the 11th of her career, making her the franchise’s single-season and career record-holder. All-Star Jackie Young finished with 22 points, while reserve wing Alysha Clark scored a season-high 16 off the bench.
All-Star guard Jewell Loyd scored 28 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Storm.
The Aces are off for the next six days before heading on the road to play the Mercury at 7 p.m. Friday.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Late separation
The Aces were up 75-67 entering the fourth quarter. Their lead expanded to 26 points by the time the final buzzer rang.
Hammon’s squad outscored the Storm 28-10 to end the game. The Aces began the quarter with a unit featuring Young, Clark, All-Star guard Kelsey Plum, second-year wing Kierstan Bell and starting center Kiah Stokes. They immediately embarked on a 12-2 run.
Plum scored 11 in the fourth quarter, while Clark made three 3s and Stokes had two steals. The Aces made 60 percent of their field goals during the period and held the Storm to just 5-of-17 shooting. Seattle also committed six turnovers, which the Aces turned into 11 points.
“The differential in that game was that at the start of that fourth quarter, that group really cracked the game open,” Hammon said.
2. Loyd starts hot
The WNBA’s leading scorer entering Saturday, Loyd has been a mixed bag against the Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena. She averages around 17 points per game on the Aces’ home court, but if you take out her 38-point outing from 2022, Loyd only averaged 13.5 points per game in Las Vegas entering Saturday.
However, Loyd was dynamic in the first half, scoring 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go with five rebounds, an assist and two 3s. Young said Loyd’s off-ball movement makes her a difficult player to mark, and it takes the entire team’s focus to contain the All-Star guard’s offense.
“She can score at all three levels,” Young said. “Her bag is deep so you might think you know her first move, then she comes back with something else.”
3. Defensive inconsistency
Before Saturday’s game, reserve guard Sydney Colson said that during the 2022 championship season, the Aces had defensive consistency. They closed the season on a four-game winning streak, beating contenders like the Storm and Candace Parker’s Chicago Sky as their defense jelled at the right time.
The Aces haven’t found consistent defensive rhythm with just two games remaining this season. Seattle shot 39.7 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3, with Hammon calling the team’s defense “suspect.”
“At the end of the day, I wasn’t thrilled with the defense,” Hammon said. “It was OK, wasn’t great.”