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Aces entertain, but fall short in Las Vegas opener to Seattle

Updated May 27, 2018 - 10:07 pm

There were pyrotechnics, performances and positive vibes for the Aces’ opener Sunday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Grammy Award-winning trio Boyz II Men and the dancing Jabbawockeez were there, along with WNBA president Lisa Borders.

There wasn’t an Aces victory, though.

Las Vegas will have to wait for one of those.

The Aces (0-3) surrendered a 42-18 run to the Seattle Storm during the first half and never fully recovered en route to a 105-98 loss.

Rookie forward A’ja Wilson showcased her potential by posting a game-high 27 points and eight rebounds, and she keyed a frenetic fourth-quarter rally.

But wily veteran star Sue Bird, now in her 17th season, buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 26 seconds left to seal the victory.

“We didn’t have the greatest first half,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “I told (the players) to dig deep at half and get back in the game. I thought we played very hard. I think we’re learning. We have a long way to go. We’re not the best basketball team right now.”

The Aces pieced together a handful of inspiring runs and showcased what they could become before an announced crowd of 4,467.

Wilson started the game with seven straight points and helped the team to a 14-8 lead. Second-year forward Nia Coffey was dynamic on the wing and finished with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and fifth-year guard Kayla McBride made her regular-season debut and had 21 points.

But the Storm was experienced and unfazed. They relied on ball movement, team defense and their own star power to seize a 53-35 halftime lead, and nursed a double-figure lead for most of the second half, despite a barrage of buckets from Wilson, Coffey and McBride.

Breanna Stewart had 23 points, Natasha Howard added 21 points, and Jewell Loyd scored 20 for Seattle (3-1), which shot 52.2 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range.

“They shot the ball extremely well,” Laimbeer said. “Three-balls. We missed some assignments.”

Laimbeer remained optimistic after the game, though. The crowd was loud, the players are young, and they played well for stretches.

Just not enough stretches to secure their first victory.

“There was a point when I couldn’t hear my teammates and they couldn’t hear me,” Wilson said. “That’s what we want. … Hopefully, despite the loss, we still built a great atmosphere and energy around the fans.”

More Aces: Follow our Aces coverage at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

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

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