Aces look to end inaugural season in Las Vegas with win

Updated August 18, 2018 - 6:31 pm

Aces guard Kayla McBride couldn’t wait to get back to Las Vegas to play basketball again.

Even after losing what was essentially a playoff game to the Dallas Wings on Friday.

“I’m proud of this team, I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said Friday night. “We’ve still got another game at home in front of our fans. That’s what we’re looking to now.”

The Aces (14-19) end their inaugural season at 3 p.m. Sunday against the Atlanta Dream (22-11) at Mandalay Bay Events Center. They were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Wings, and the finale has no longstanding implications.

But they’ll try to put on a show for their home crowd one more time.

Just as they’ve done all season.

“We give it all to our fans. We give it all to the people that support us,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said. “People are excited to watch next year, to see how we’re going to do in the postseason. The season is still not over. We’re still having a lot of fun.”

The Aces were the WNBA’s worst team last season as the San Antonio Stars, then were bought by MGM Resorts International and moved to Las Vegas in October. The company spent the ensuing six months rebranding the franchise as the Aces, and coach Bill Laimbeer spent that time compiling a roster he hoped could compete nightly.

After a 1-7 start, Las Vegas won 11 of its next 17 games, getting victories over the top-seeded Seattle Storm and perennial championship contenders such as the Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks.

McBride became an All-Star, Wilson emerged as a star and a collection of youthful, talented players blossomed around the two as the Aces worked their way into the playoff picture.

“Everybody kind of proved themselves along the way this season,” McBride said.

But the Aces couldn’t overcome their start.

Nor could they overcome a five-game losing streak in August.

“We can’t get it back, the start of the season, when three, four and five mean the same as Game 35,” Laimbeer said. “We learned a good lesson there this year that they all count. … At the same time, we competed.”

Laimbeer also is excited about the future and reflected on the foundation the Aces laid this season.

“We learned some things about individuals and about our basketball team to improve in the future with a draft pick and maybe some free agents,” he said. “I think we have a good core group of players to build upon. Our players love playing with each other. They love being in Las Vegas, playing for MGM and our arena.”

They’ll get to enjoy it one more time Sunday.

More Aces: Follow online 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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