The Aces’ locker room inside the Thomas &Mack Center on Sunday was silent some 25 minutes after the “Miracle at the Mack.” Their celebration had ended, and their focus had shifted.
On to the remainder of the postseason starting the almighty Washington Mystics.
“We’ve just got to be a little bit more locked in with them,” said Aces forward Dearica Hamby after her incredible half-court heave. “It should be a good series.”
The Aces arrived at their hotel in Washington at 5 p.m. local time Monday after chartering a plane under the direction of WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who also made the allowance for the Los Angeles Sparks, the opponent of the Connecticut Sun in the other semifinal series.
Both the Aces and Sparks traveled across three time zones and have an extra day to adjust and prepare for the rigors of best-of-five semifinal series that begin on Tuesday.
“It’s just easier on our bodies. If we didn’t take this charter flight on our own, it would take us, what, eight hours or something, with a connecting flight,” Aces center Liz Cambage said Sunday. “It shouldn’t come down to waiting for a flight.”
And it didn’t.
Now, the Aces must topple the Mystics, who finished the regular season with the best offense in league history, the best record and the best player in Elena Della Donne.
Las Vegas dropped two of its three meetings against Washington, winning only when Delle Donne was injured July 13. The other two matchups weren’t remotely competitive. The Aces lost by an average of 26 points.
“They know who they are,” Las Vegas guard Kayla McBride said. “They’re obviously very confident.”
For good reason.
With Delle Donne, the Mystics averaged 1.19 points per possession against the Aces this season, better than their WNBA record-setting mark of 1.12 points per possession. Las Vegas scored 0.85 points per possession in those two games, considerably worse than their average of 0.99 points per possession.
Washington also led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.86 and assist ratio at 19.4 percent. Its chemistry produces the best ball movement in the WNBA. Delle Donne and her brigade of shooters torched the Aces time and again.
“Sometimes you might have to sacrifice different things (defending Delle Donne and Washington),” Aces’ forward A’ja Wilson said. “That’s hard, that’s really hard, especially in the team defensive schemes that we have.”
But the Aces have a little bit of extra time to prepare, thanks in part to their travel accommodations. They know what’s at stake, and they’ll try to devise a defense to stop the seemingly unstoppable.
“Single-elimination games are a little different than a series. We can be more tactical,” McBride said. “Maybe we can steal one there in Washington.”
They’ll need to in order to win the series.