The Aces were the betting favorites to win the WNBA title after acquiring Liz Cambage last month. But they haven’t looked the part in two of their three games.
Coach Bill Laimbeer said he isn’t surprised and has reaffirmed for several weeks that his team must learn how to win close games before it becomes a legitimate contender. Las Vegas (1-2) squandered leads to the Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun in its past two games — both losses — and now hits the road for its next two games.
Here are three things to watch as the Aces look to bounce back Thursday against the Atlanta Dream.
1. Possible change in the starting lineup
After Sunday’s loss, Laimbeer mentioned a possible change in the starting lineup, which hasn’t produced consistently. All-Stars A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride are shoo-ins, but Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Carolyn Swords played limited minutes Sunday and combined for two points.
Veteran Tamera Young played 27 minutes at small forward — the most of any reserve — and provides scoring and defensive versatility at 6-feet, 2-inches.
She started 25 games last season and would be a logical addition to the starting unit. Guard Sydney Colson also has thrived in a reserve role, as has forward Dearica Hamby. But Laimbeer said Hamby probably will continue to come off the bench.
2. 3-point shooting
The Aces attempted the fewest 3-pointers (10.6) in the WNBA last season and are taking the fewest this season (13.0). They have been outscored from 3-point range in all three games and haven’t attempted more than 16 in a game.
With Wilson and center Liz Cambage, the Aces predicate their offense around their inside game. But the team’s lack of 3-point shooting has congested the paint and clogged driving lanes at times.
3. Liz Cambage
Cambage has showcased her scoring and rebounding in limited minutes and should become more of a factor when she gets additional playing time. She’s averaging 14 minutes per game and is third on the team in scoring (13.5), hitting 47.1 percent of her field-goal attempts.
She will join the starting lineup at some point. Could it be Thursday?
Who: Aces at Atlanta Dream
When: 4 p.m. Thursday
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta
TV: CBS Sports Network
About the Aces (1-2): The season-opening victory is a distant memory, as the Aces have squandered leads in losses to the Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun. A’ja Wilson is averaging a team-high 17 points to go with 9.7 rebounds, and Kayla McBride is scoring 16 a game.
About the Dream (1-2): All-Star Angel McCoughtry tore knee ligaments late last season and hasn’t played in the first three games. Brittney Sykes is averaging a team-high 10.3 points. Former Aces forward Nia Coffey, who was traded when the team acquired Sugar Rodgers, is averaging 8.0 points and shooting 52.6 percent from the field.