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Aces win 5th straight, tie WNBA record for 3-pointers

If it wasn’t already clear, the Aces are having fun.

They’re dancing on the sideline, joking during news conferences and simply enjoying playing basketball together. Their chemistry is helping them on the court, too.

“The energy is just different,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I am having fun.”

The Aces won their fifth consecutive game Monday night, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 104-76 at Michelob Ultra Arena. They set several franchise records, gave their rotation players the entire fourth quarter to get valuable experience and maintained first-year coach Becky Hammon’s undefeated home record.

“We’ve got a great group of women who happen to be great basketball players,” Hammon said.

Former Aces standout Liz Cambage, who played two seasons with the Aces before signing with the Sparks in the offseason, got into early foul trouble and had 10 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Aces shoot for record books

The Aces (7-1) reached several milestones. Aisha Sheppard’s 3-pointer with 17.5 seconds remaining — their 18th of the night — tied the WNBA record for most 3s in a game.

“They caught us on a night,” Hammon said. “We shot the ball well.”

Kierstan Bell’s 3-pointer 52 seconds earlier broke the franchise record for 3s in a game, and the team’s seven 3s in the first quarter and 11 in the first half also were franchise highs.

Six Aces made a 3-pointer, and five hit multiple shots from deep. Bell said the team knew the Sparks had post players who didn’t want to chase shooters to the 3-point line.

2. Wilson puts on a show

Only six players in the league took more shots per game than Wilson last season. This season, she’s taking only 9.7 per game. Her defensive responsibilities and Hammon’s system don’t require her to shine on offense every night.

“I’m demanding a lot of her,” Hammon said. “And to A’ja’s credit, she has been so unbelievably coachable, so unbelievably humble and so unbelievably good.”

Wilson was almost unstoppable against the Sparks (2-5), scoring 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting.

“I just try to put the ball in the hoop,” she said. “My teammates trust me enough to let me do that.”

She scored at all three levels, blowing by post players with her speed, shooting over smaller defenders in midrange and taking advantage of Los Angeles’ forwards and centers playing in drop coverage. Wilson made two 3s, the first time in her career she’s made multiple shots from beyond the arc.

3. Records meant to be broken

The Aces set a scoring record for a quarter for the second time in three days.

Led by 14 points each from Jackie Young — named WNBA Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday — and Wilson, the Aces scored 39 points in the first quarter, breaking the franchise record of 38 points that they set in the third quarter Saturday against the Phoenix Mercury.

Young’s 3-pointer from the left wing seconds before the first quarter expired, which bounced on the rim before going down, set the record.

“They were locked in,” Hammon said.

The Aces shot 76.5 percent in the first quarter, including a 7-for-8 start on 3-pointers. Wilson and Young were 10 of 12.

While the offense went to work, the defense also showed up early. Cambage played two minutes in the first quarter after picking up two fouls. Without her, the Aces held the Sparks to 5-for-20 shooting.

“When our defense is like that, and we’re locked in and connected, our offense will take care of itself,” point guard Kelsey Plum said.

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

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