Updated August 26, 2019 - 4:48 pm
Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said after Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Lynx that the team is tired — and is need of a break.
A three-day break is indeed on the horizon for the Aces, but not before a showdown with the Indiana Fever to culminate a tumultuous three-game trip. The Aces (19-11) have lost two straight games after the a 98-77 defeat and have fallen to fourth in the WNBA standings with four games to play.
They lead the fifth-place Chicago Sky (18-11) by a half-game. The top two seeds receive a double bye into the semfinals, and the third and fourth seeds receive one bye through the first round and into the second round.
So, yes, Tuesday’s game is important. Really important.
Here are three things to watch as the Aces try to get back on track.
The first quarter
The Aces have trailed by double figures in the first quarter of their last five losses dating back to Aug. 1. Laimbeer has lamented the slow starts throughout the season, and cannot afford another one with postseason seeding on the line.
They have have shot 38.3 percent from the field in those first quarters, while their opponents shot 54 percent. The Aces on Sunday in the first quarter shot 44.4 percent while the Lynx shot 61.9 percent.
When they start well, they tend to play well.
When they don’t, they don’t.
Interior defense … again
The Aces surrendered 50 points in the paint to the Lynx and 40 to the Connecticut Sun on Friday. They still allow a league-low 29.1 points in the paint per game and boast the best defensive rating in the league at 93.9 points per 100 possessions.
But their help defense — normally crisp and sound with its rotations — has been stagnant the last two games. And their guards and wings — normally pests on the perimeter — have struggled to stay in front of opposing ball handlers, allowing easy baskets in the half court setting.
Establishing Liz Cambage
The 6-foot-8-inch center had averaged 21.2 points and 10.7 rebounds in her previous six games, but finished with 12 points and five rebounds against the Lynx on Sunday. She also attempted a season-low five field goals and played 22 minutes, the fewest in a full game since July 30.
Lynx center Sylvia Fowles is among the best defensive post players in the league, and certainly played a part in neutralizing Cambage. But the Aces didn’t establish her presence for the first time in several weeks — and paid for it.
Cambage is averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds against the Fever, against whom the Aces are 2-0 this season.
Who: Aces at Indiana Fever
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
TV: ESPN3 (streaming)
About the Aces (19-11): Cambage is averaging a team-high 16.1 points and 8.4 rebounds. A’ja Wilson averages 15.9 points and 6.3 rebounds and Kayla McBride scores 14.1 per game.
About the Fever (10-19): Kelsey Mitchell leads the way, averaging 12.5 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting. Candice Dupree accounts for 11 points and 5.1 rebounds and All-Star game MVP Erica Wheeler logs 10.9 points per game.