The Aces played to their potential for the first time this season Thursday.
Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer was upset about his team’s 21 turnovers in a 92-69 victory at the Atlanta Dream. But giveaways aside, his team turned in a dominant performance that made it the preseason WNBA title favorite.
The Aces (2-2) will look to continue their winning ways Sunday at the New York Liberty (0-4). Here are three things to monitor.
1. The bench
The bench turned in another impressive performance Thursday and continues to be one of the league’s best second units. Dearica Hamby is averaging 11.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Sugar Rodgers is shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point range, and Tamera Young scored a season-high 12 points against Atlanta.
The bench has outscored opposing benches in all four games and provides a spark that Laimbeer has relied on amid some sleepy outings from the starters.
2. The pace
The Aces led the league in pace of play last season and are first again in 2019 with an average of 101.7 possessions per game. Their roster is young, versatile and athletic, thereby conducive to the uptempo style that Laimbeer prefers.
Granted, there isn’t much of a sample size, but the Aces rate as one of the WNBA’s top defensive teams, allowing 90 points per 100 possessions, second fewest in the league. Their net rating of 8.3 ranks third, and their defensive rebounding percentage of 76.1 is No. 1.
3. Jackie Young
Laimbeer indicated during training camp that Young would play point guard, but the rookie started the first three games on the wing and struggled at times to find her role in the offense. But she handled the ball more Thursday and produced six points and a team-high eight assists in 18 minutes.
The 6-foot Young is one of the WNBA’s better athletes and thrives in transition. She also shifts Kelsey Plum off the ball, where she can thrive as one of the league’s best shooters (43.9 percent on 3-pointers in 2018). Plum made two 3-pointers Thursday and finished with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists.
Who: Aces at New York Liberty
When: Noon Sunday
Where: Westchester County Center, White Plains, N.Y.
TV: WNBA League Pass
About the Aces (2-2): Liz Cambage started for the first time this season Thursday and had 15 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes. She’s averaging 14 points and 5.3 rebounds in her return from Achilles tendinitis. A’ja Wilson leads the team with averages of 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, and Kayla McBride is scoring 15.3 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. The Aces were 3-0 against the Liberty last season.
About the Liberty (0-4): Tina Charles is among the WNBA’s most dominant players, averaging 23.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. Second-year wing Kia Nurse is averaging 11 points and rookie guard Asia Durr 10. Three of the Liberty’s losses are by single digits.