The Aces returned to Mandalay Bay Events Center for practice on Saturday, knowing full well their season may end there Sunday if they don’t beat the Washington Mystics in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals.
Las Vegas trails 2-0 and is seeking to become the first team in WNBA history to win a series after losing the first two games. The Aces played competitively against the Mystics in the first two games, but missed a last-second shot in Game 1 and surrendered an untimely 19-5 run in Game 2.
“Washington won their home games. That’s what they’re supposed to do,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Now we’re supposed to win our home games. Now we’ve got to go out and prove it.”
Only once has a team come back to even tie a best-of-five series after trailing 2-0. But first the Aces must win one game before they can win two.
Here are three things they can do to maximize their chance of extending the series:
1. Keep pounding post
The Aces’ most decisive advantage is still in the interior with forward A’Ja Wilson and center Liz Cambage, who are collectively averaging 36.5 points on 49 percent shooting as the focal point of the offense and Washington’s defense.
The two have worked in the first two games for optimal looks against Washington’s more frail front line by beating defenders down the floor in transition to secure positioning. They’ve used their size and strength for deep seals in half-court settings and have attacked the offensive glass for 13 offensive rebounds and additional second-chance opportunities.
“With the Mystics, it’s a team we match up very well against (up front),” Wilson said. “We’re not going to switch up a lot of things that we’ve already been doing, which is the inside-out game. It’s just finding it, in different ways.”
2. Trim turnovers
Las Vegas had 13 turnovers in Game 2 on Thursday. Washington has turned the ball over 12 times in the series.
The Aces were plagued by turnovers throughout the regular season, and they’ve reared their head in the WNBA semifinals, creating additional opportunities for the Mystics to unleash the best offense in league history. The Aces are averaging 13 per game compared to six for the Mystics, who have attempted 17 more shots than the Aces through two games.
Many of their turnovers are unforced, too, coming by way of a lazy pass or a poor decision in a low-pressure situation.
“When you play with that fast of a pace, you’re going to play with this, not panic, but a very high intensity, and one miscue is a turnover,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who was brilliant Thursday except for her five turnovers. “That’s definitely a focus for me coming into the next game. I can’t turn over the ball.”
3. Defend Meesseman
Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne was the MVP of the regular season, but teammate Emma Meesseman is the MVP of this series. The 6-foot-4-inch forward is averaging 28.5 points on 62.1 percent shooting. She’s taking advantage of defensive coverage designed in part to slow Delle Donne.
The Aces have struggled to contain her in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop actions, and she’s made them pay by knocking down uncontested jumper after uncontested jumper.
“We’ve not been fully committed to her,” Plum said. “They move the ball so well and everyone can score. I think you’ll see some adjustments made and we’ll go from there.”