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Aces in search of depth, look to avoid 3-game losing skid

Becky Hammon acknowledged she’s overplaying some of the Aces right now.

Speaking after the team’s 94-85 road loss to the New York Liberty on Monday, the coach said the Aces’ reserves will be important during the final four games of the season, especially as the starters continue to soak up heavy minutes ahead of the playoffs.

“Fatigue starts to set in because you start to overplay people,” she said. “That’s part of the problem, too, is some of our depth, but we’re going to continue playing our bench.”

The Aces (30-6) return home to Michelob Ultra Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday to face the Washington Mystics (17-18), who beat Hammon’s team 78-62 in Washington on Saturday. The Aces are trying to avoid losing three straight games for the first time in Hammon’s tenure.

She is 1-4 against Washington in her career after the Aces split their first two games against the Mystics this season.

Depth hasn’t been an emphasis during Hammon’s two seasons with the Aces. She began the 2022 playoffs with an eight-player rotation, but quickly chopped it down to six following the Aces’ first-round sweep of the Phoenix Mercury.

This season, the Aces’ depth problems appeared to be fixed following the signing of two-time MVP Candace Parker. However, the discovery of her fractured left foot in early July forced veteran center Kiah Stokes back into the starting lineup instead of being able to bring her in off the bench.

Since Parker’s injury, Hammon has tried to give more minutes to some of her other reserves, including second-year wing Kierstan Bell and Australian center Cayla George, often to mixed results.

Bell was minus-12 in six minutes against New York, and George was minus-3 in seven minutes. Both have played well off the bench at times this season, and Hammon promised they will continue to get minutes during the final four games.

“We believe they’re capable basketball players, capable of impacting the game in a positive way,” Hammon said.

Alysha Clark, who has been on two WNBA title teams, has been Hammon’s most trusted reserve all season. The 36-year-old wing had seven points, three rebounds, two assists and a block in just under 30 minutes against the Liberty. Hammon singled out Clark and reserve guard Sydney Colson, who played eight minutes after All-Star guard Kelsey Plum got into foul trouble, for their play off the bench against New York.

However, Clark is struggling from 3 since missing a game against the Atlanta Dream on Aug. 13 with a back injury. She’s 5-for-28 from beyond the arc during that span, which doesn’t include her 0-for-5 outing from deep against the Liberty in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game Aug. 15 that doesn’t count in the season stats.

It’s a brutal stretch for a player who owns some of the most efficient 3-point shooting seasons in WNBA history during her time with the Seattle Storm. However, Hammon said she is confident the reserves, including Clark, will get back on track as the regular season winds down.

“We’re not going to start losing trust in each other now,” Hammon said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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