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Aces stagger into All-Star break after 5th loss in 7 games

Updated July 7, 2022 - 5:18 am

Aces coach Becky Hammon has insisted her scheme isn’t that complicated. She wants her players to find the open shooters, make the right plays and be unselfish.

“Until we do that, we will continue to lose,” Hammon said.

The Aces lost to the New York Liberty 116-107 on Wednesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena. Liberty All-Star Sabrina Ionescu had a triple-double of 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and reserve center Han Xu scored 24 to overcome A’ja Wilson’s 29-point outing for the Aces.

“We caught a good team on a good night,” Hammon said as her team limped into the All-Star break with its second straight loss and fifth in seven games.

The Aces (15-7) will get two more shots at the Liberty (9-12) after the break. They play in New York twice next week.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. Suspect perimeter defense

Neither team guarded the 3-point line well. The Aces and Liberty hit 20 3s in the first half to set a WNBA record.

Led by guard Kelsey Plum, who went 3 of 5 on 3s before the break, the Aces went 11 of 17 from beyond the arc. Ionescu went 5 of 5 in the first half as New York shot 9 of 16 on 3-pointers.

“Defensively, we didn’t dictate any action,” Hammon said. “We followed them around. I thought they got to whatever spots they wanted.”

The Liberty’s barrage continued in the second half, as Aces defenders either lost Ionescu away from the ball or let her hide behind screeners. Ionescu was 7 of 8 on 3s for the game while eviscerating the Aces in pick-n-roll.

Ionescu’s triple-double was the highest-scoring one in WNBA history, and she tied Candace Parker’s league record of three triple-doubles.

It’s the second consecutive game the Aces have allowed more than 100 points.

2. Reserves lead first half

A hard pin-in screen on Wilson halfway through the first quarter temporarily forced her to leave the court and made Hammon turn to her bench earlier than normal.

Hammon inserted Riquna Williams, Kiah Stokes and Iliana Rupert to try to keep the Aces close. Instead, they helped the Aces race to a lead.

Williams, Rupert and Stokes combined to score 24 points, five off the team’s best bench performance this season. They were the only Aces players with positive plus-minus stats.

“Our bench really kept us in the game,” Hammon said.

3. Hero-ball proves costly

The Aces had 20 assists through three quarters, but then abandoned their offensive principles.

“They have to decide they want to do it,” Hammon said. “Play the right way. (The Liberty) did it. That’s all there is to it. Make the right play, whatever it is.”

The Aces had only three assists in the fourth quarter. Their stagnant offense opened the door for the Liberty, who turned a one-point deficit entering the quarter into a comfortable win.

The Aces’ poor shots turned into easy opportunities, especially for Xu, who scored 14 points in the quarter.

Turnovers weren’t the culprit, either. The Aces had only seven turnovers, but bad shot selection and poor defense cost them again.

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

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