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Liz Cambage shines in playoff opener in Las Vegas

Updated September 15, 2019 - 8:12 pm

Aces center Liz Cambage missed plenty of layups Sunday during a 93-92 victory over the Chicago Sky at the Thomas & Mack Center — and still finished with 23 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.

“We all missed some easy shots tonight,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “But she didn’t put her head down. She just kept playing.”

Just kept producing, too.

Cambage for the fourth consecutive meeting with Chicago was dominant on the interior, carrying the Aces during stretches of stagnancy in her second career playoff game. The 6-foot-8-inch center demanded the ball during different times of the franchise’s first playoff win since 2012, and her teammates delivered it to her in the post, in transition and in pick and rolls

She wanted it.

She got it.

“She changes the whole dynamic of our team,” teammate Kayla McBride said.

“Getting rebounds, blocking shots, it just changes our whole swag on the court,” McBride added. “She’s been there for us all year. She’s an All-Star and that’s what we expect from her.”

Cambage created those expectations by averaging 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last season with the Dallas Wings. She was traded to the Aces in May and lived up to the Aces’ hopes by averaging 15.9 points and 8.2 rebounds, en route to her second consecutive All-Star selection.

There’d be the occasional dud, like her eight-point, six-turnover performance against the Los Angeles Sparks last month. But those were few and far between. And she was far too much for Chicago to handle in every one of their matchups this season.

Cambage in four games against the Sky averaged 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and shot 56.4 percent from the field. She was a focal point offensively Sunday from the first quarter on, finished 8 of 19 from the field and 6 of 7 from the line — unfazed by Chicago’s brisk pace.

“Liz wanted the ball. She told me ‘Come on, give me the ball. They’re not passing me the ball,” Laimbeer said. “She wanted the ball down the stretch.”

Cambage scored 16 points in the second half and helped deter Chicago’s guards from attacking the basket. The Sky’s all-star trio of Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields combined to shoot 12 of 41 from the field.

Her presence loomed large.

Her production loomed larger.

“It comes down to two teams, playing as hard as they can down to the last second,” Cambage said. “I’m so jacked up right now. We’re all excited. We’re so hype, but we’re so focused at the same time.”

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

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