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Aces search for answers as defensive woes continue

The Aces know their defense isn’t working.

They lost to Atlanta 92-76 on Tuesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena, a game in which the Dream hit 15 of 24 3-pointers. The 62.5 percent accuracy was the highest against the Aces this season.

“We did a lot of things wrong, and they capitalized,” coach Becky Hammon said.

The Aces (18-8) will get a chance to redeem themselves when they host the Indiana Fever, whose 5-23 record is by far the worst in the WNBA, at 7 p.m. Thursday. The teams have yet to meet this season.

For the past month, the Aces haven’t defended at a high level, especially on the perimeter. The four highest 3-point shooting percentages they’ve surrendered have been since June 29. The Aces lost three of those games.

“We’ve just got to stick to the basics,” forward Dearica Hamby said. “There’s rules we have that we shouldn’t be breaking, and we’re breaking them right now.”

Hamby and wing Jackie Young have carried large shares of the defensive load, routinely drawing the opponent’s leading scorer.

But the Dream hunted for advantageous switches all night. The Aces’ weaker defenders struggled to contain drives to the rim, which led to wide-open kick-out 3s.

Hamby and guard Riquna Williams said they think the solution to the team’s struggles at the point of attack is effort.

“We’re not working smart,” Williams said. “We’re trying to take shortcuts.”

Poor defense is also hurting the team’s offense. Hammon and her players have emphasized how important live-ball stops are to the team’s ability to score. They want to get out in transition to fully utilize their quickness and shooting.

No one has been hurt by the recent lack of transition opportunities more than Hamby, one of the league’s best scorers in transition.

Hammon has often praised Hamby for her ability to make an impact without the ball, but the All-Star’s production has dropped alarmingly in the past month. She has scored in double figures once in the past 10 games and is averaging 6.0 points in that stretch. She was scoreless Tuesday, taking three shots in 22 minutes.

Hamby’s main offensive contributions have been on spot-up corner 3s, but she’s shooting 27 percent this season on 3-pointers. Her career average is 31 percent.

“I kind of feel like I’ve been taken out of the action, not intentionally, of course,” Hamby said. “But it’s hard. We’ve got four All-Stars, five players averaging double figures, and I’m the player that takes the back seat. That’s my role, but there’s not many shots left, if we’re being honest.”

Williams said calling more plays that directly involve Hamby might help reintegrate her into the offense. But both said locking in on defense will solve the problem, too.

“Your defense fuels your offense,” Williams said.

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

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