Bill Laimbeer isn’t exactly sure what the Aces have done particularly well during their surge to the top of the WNBA’s Western Conference standings.
“Winning,” the coach said with a coy smile.
One way or another.
The Aces relied on balanced offense and timely defense Tuesday to secure a 90-82 victory over the Chicago Sky before an announced crowd of 3,516 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
A’ja Wilson shrugged off a slow start and scored eight of her 16 points in the fourth quarter, and Las Vegas held Chicago to 4-for-18 shooting in the final period to break a 72-all tie — and pull away.
Kayla McBride scored all 16 of her points in the first half and Liz Cambage supplied 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“This is who we are as the Las Vegas Aces. Across the board, everyone can score, everyone can get the basketball and create something,” Wilson said. “If we make it to the playoffs and things like that, that’s what’s going to separate us.”
The Aces (8-5), preseason championship favorites, have had their share of struggles on both ends of the floor this season — displaying at times palpable lethargy and stagnancy amid the lofty external expectations.
One night, they’re great. The next night, not so much. But they’ve won five of their past seven games amid the inconsistencies while flashing their championship potential.
If only occasionally.
They were at their very best offensively in the first half Tuesday, by sharing the ball and converting 67.7 percent of their field-goal attempts. But they struggled defensively and held just a 55-54 halftime lead as Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot probed the paint to find shooters and cutters.
“Our defense was not there for two-thirds of the game,” Laimbeer said. “It happens that way sometimes. Our offense was able to carry the day, but we have to lock down a little better than that.”
The Aces in the fourth quarter denied dribble penetration and limited the Sky to one shot before capitalizing on the other end. Wilson, who missed seven of her first eight shots, sealed Chicago defenders under the basket for easy scores. Cambage made a couple short jumpers and Dearica Hamby ran the floor for a couple scores.
Hamby came off the bench to log 14 points and five rebounds, and Kesley Plum converted 6 of 9 shots for 14 points to shake off the worst shooting slump of her career. She had missed 29 of her previous 32 shots and had accounted for nine points over the past five games.
But that’s history for her and the Aces, who shot 53.7 percent from the field.
“(Our offense) comes from so many different places, and that’s the dynamic of our team. That’s what makes us so good,” McBride said. “We score off our defense and our transition. … I thought it was a great team effort. When you have contributions like that, it’s really hard to beat us — especially at home.”
Allie Quigley led the Sky (6-7) with 18 points.