GAME PREVIEW: Aces vs. Mercury (8/1)

LAS VEGAS (July 31 1, 2018)—With Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018 fading into the rearview, the league turns its attention to a final, three-week, regular season sprint, and the conclusion of the most competitive season in WNBA history.

Las Vegas has won six of its last seven games and 11 of its last 17 to burst into playoff contention, but the Aces remain in ninth place in the league standings. Heading into Wednesday’s action, they trail Connecticut and Dallas by one-and-a-half games, and are also only three-and-a-half games back of second-place Atlanta. The top eight teams in the WNBA advance to the postseason regardless of conference affiliation.

Las Vegas gets its first chance to move one step closer to the playoffs on Wednesday, August 1 as the Aces host the Phoenix Mercury beginning at 7 pm PT.

W L Pct GB
Seattle 20 7 .741
Atlanta 16 10 .615 3.5
Minnesota 15 10 .600 4.0
Los Angeles 15 11 .577 4.5
Washington 15 11 .577 4.5
Phoenix 15 12 .556 5.0
Dallas 14 12 .538 5.5
Connecticut 14 12 .538 5.5
Las Vegas 12 13 .480 7.0
Chicago 10 17 .370 10.0
New York 7 18 .280 11.5
Indiana 3 23 .115 16.0

 

This Wednesday’s game is the first of nine that the Aces play over the final 19 days of the season. Five of those games are at home, and four are on the road. Seven are against teams that are ahead of Las Vegas in the standings.

Date Opponent W L
August 1 vs. Phoenix 15 11
August 3 at Washington 14 11
August 5 at Connecticut 14 12
August 7 at Atlanta 16 9
August 9 vs. Minnesota 15 10
August 11 vs. Indiana 3 23
August 15 vs. New York 7 18
August 17 at Dallas 14 11
August 19 vs. Atlanta 16 9

 

After starting the year by losing seven of their first eight games, the Aces have since gone 11-6, including wins in six of their last seven contests.  The team has improved on both sides of the ball, but particularly on the offensive end during its most recent 17-game stretch.

Offense Defense
FG% 3G% TOs PPG ORPct OER 3G% DRPct DER
1-7 start .409 .286 14.9 78.9 .227 92.0 .384 .738 106.1
11-6 since .448 .385 12.6 84.9 .268 102.7 .318 .778 100.3

 

Las Vegas’ All-Stars—Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player candidate A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride—have led the Aces back into the playoff race. Wilson is sixth in the league in scoring (20.0), third in rebounding (8.6) and fifth in blocked shots (1.76); while McBride is eighth in scoring (19.3), third in free throw percentage (.912), and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.409).

Over the last 17 games, Wilson and McBride have been one of the most productive scoring duos in the WNBA.

PPG RPG APG FG% 3G% FT%
Wilson 19.8 9.0 2.8 45.6 78.1
McBride 21.1 3.9 3.4 47.7 41.5 94.3

 

Kelsey Plum has also been key to the team’s recent success, making 50.0 percent of her three-pointers over the last 17 games, and she now ranks first in the WNBA in three-point field goal percentage (.463). Tamera Young has her scoring average back in double figures  as she is averaging a career-high 10.0 points per game.

If there is a yin to the Aces yang this year it is Phoenix. Heading into a Tuesday night home tilt against the front-running Seattle storm, the Mercury have lost six of their last seven after starting the year with a 14-5 mark. Four of those six losses have been by six points or less.

Diana Taurasi continues to defy Father Time, passing the 8,000 career point mark earlier this season, while averaging 20.3 points per game. That is the 14-year veterans highest scoring average since 2013. Taurasi is also shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc, which is the second highest percentage of her career. Brittney Griner (19.8 ppg) and DeWanna Bonner (16.4) are also averaging double figures in scoring for Phoenix.

The teams last squared off against one another on July 18, with the Aces picking up an 85-82 road win. Kayla McBride poured in 27 points in the victory, while Aja Wilson posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double.