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Bill Laimbeer rips referees after Aces blown out in Game 2

Updated October 1, 2021 - 2:10 pm

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer was critical of the officiating Thursday night after a 117-91 loss to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals at Michelob Ultra Arena.

While concluding the opening statement during his news conference, Laimbeer said he’s “getting a little tired of the referees and the way they referee us versus the other team. They treat us like we’re champions. We get a champions’ whistle. We’re not. We’re trying to win our first one. Why treat us like that?

“Were we going to win this game? Probably not. But just give us some respect,” Laimbeer added after the Aces allowed a playoff regulation record 117 points on 60.6 percent shooting, including 53.8 percent from 3-point range.

“They blew a whistle today before the foul even happened. They anticipated it happening, and they blew it to give Phoenix some free throws. That doesn’t make any sense. That was wrong. And we’re tired of it. And someone has to say something. And I just did.”

The call in question most likely came at the 6:11 mark of the third quarter. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi pulled up to attempt a 3-pointer from the left wing, and Aces guard Jackie Young was whistled for a foul, though there appeared to be minimal contact on Taurasi’s release.

The call angered Laimbeer, who argued for a minute near the scorer’s table with referee Tiara Cruse while the crowd showered the officiating crew with boos. The play was reviewed, but the call stood.

Taurasi made all three free throws.

“I’ve played this game and been coaching this game for over 40 years. … I understand what’s going on in the game,” Laimbeer said. “We’re trying to win our first one. We’re a hungry young group. Just treat us fairly. That’s all we ask.”

The foul count was actually even through three quarters, and the Mercury finished with 21 fouls compared with 16 for the Aces, who pulled their starters early in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

The Mercury did attempt six more free throws through three quarters, finishing 23 of 24 from the line. Taurasi drew shooting fouls on two 3-point attempts. The Aces were 15 of 22.

Las Vegas led the WNBA in free-throw attempts in the regular season, averaging 21.9. Phoenix finished second with 19.4 per game.

Game 3 is Sunday on Arizona State’s campus with the series tied 1-1.

“That just wasn’t us. It didn’t feel like us,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said. “That’s not how you play a playoff series at all.”

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

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