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Aces lose star wing, tie Sparks in final preseason scrimmage

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer and Los Angeles Sparks coach Derek Fisher agreed to conclude their scrimmage after four quarters Saturday with an 85-85 tie.

Overtime seemed unnecessary.

Las Vegas stars Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson combined to score 40 points, but the team lost wing Angel McCoughtry to a right knee injury 2:49 into the first quarter. She was helped off the playing surface inside Los Angeles Convention Center, but returned in the second half to join her teammates on the bench.

The severity of the injury is not yet known, per a team spokesperson.

McCoughtry started every game for the Aces last season, her first with the franchise — averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 51.8 percent from the field. She landed awkwardly after grabbing an offensive rebound.

“It doesn’t look like it’s very good news for us at the moment,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We’ll find out in the next couple days. But it is what it is. Keep on trucking.”

The Aces are perhaps the deepest team in the WNBA, but McCoughtry was invaluable in 2020. The five-time WNBA All-Star and two-time scoring champion is among the best perimeter players in league history, and provides leadership, shot creation and defense on the wing.

Rookie Lauren Manis started the second half in McCoughtry’s place but playing sparingly, ceding playing time to Kelsey Plum, Riquna Williams and Emma Cannon. Reigning two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby also has a perimeter experience and could see more minutes on the wing should McCoughtry miss a significant time.

Injury aside, Laimbeer was pleased with the way Cambage and Wilson dominated the interior — along with the way Plum played on the outside. Cambage scored 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting, converting 9-of-12 free throws. Wilson was 7 of 14 from the floor and Plum converted 6-of-11 field goals en route to 14 points.

Free agent signee Chelsea Gray made her team debut, finishing with seven points and three assists as the starting point guard. The Aces turned the ball over 27 times, though, and the lack of ball security seemed to bother Laimbeer, who said they haven’t yet learned the value of each and every possession.

“We could have played a lot better,” Wilson said. “We need to get a better handle (on the turnovers). … This was our first opportunity to play with (Gray). It was great having a lot of our core and our team out there gelling and meshing that way. … At the end of the day, we’re gonna bounce back, go back to practice and see what we can do better.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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