GAME PREVIEW: Aces and Mystics Tangle In Saturday Matinee on ESPN

Bradenton, FL (August 14, 2020)—The Las Vegas Aces (7-2) are riding a seven-game winning streak, and have vaulted into second place in the WNBA standings, one game behind the front-running Seattle Storm (8-1). They put that streak on the line this Saturday in a 12 pm ET tip on ESPN against the 2019 league champion Washington Mystics (3-6).

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Leading MVP candidate A’ja Wilson scored a game-high 23 points in the Aces’ 87-77 win over the Minnesota Lynx Thursday evening. She leads the W in scoring at 21.2 points per game, and is fourth in rebounding at 8.9 caroms per contest. The two-time All-Star has 11 blocked shots in her last four games, including a season-high four against the Lynx, and now ranks third in the league in that category as well.

Five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry, signed during the offseason as a free agent, is beating back father time after coming back from a knee injury that sidelined her for virtually all of the 2019 season. She is tied for 10th in the league in scoring (15.9 ppg), sixth in field goal percentage (.566), sixth in three-point field goal percentage (.500), and 18th in free throw percentage (.857). The 11-year veteran recently passed DeLisha Milton Jones for 13th place on the WNBA’s career scoring list, and now has 5,611 points in her career. She could pass Becky Hammon (5,841 points) in 12th place by season’s end.

Kayla McBride has gotten her groove back over the past two games. After back-to-back single-digit scoring efforts, she is averaging 16.0 points per game over her last two, while connecting on 50.0 percent of her shots from the field. The three-time All-Star tied her career high Thursday evening with five steals against Minnesota.

2019 overall number one draft pick Jackie Young has also turned a corner, scoring 15 or more points in each of her last four games. She is 25 for 43 (.581) from the field during that span, and is now making 51.5 percent of her shots from the field this year which is the 14th highest percentage in the league.

Dearica Hamby is making her case for a second straight 6th Woman of the Year award. The seventh-year pro is averaging a career-high 11.7 points per game, 7.1 rebounds and a career-high 1.67 steals. She is also connecting on 55.6 percent of her shots from the floor, including a career-high 54.6 percent from long range.

As a team, the Aces boast the second most efficient offense in the league averaging 105.3 points per 100 possessions. Their inside-out offense leads the WNBA in free throw attempts (23.7), and Las Vegas is the second best team in the league at taking care of the basketball (17.2 TO%).

Defensively, the Aces rank third in the W in Defensive Efficiency allowing 96.1 points per 100 possessions. They are the top defensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 77.6 percent of all errant opponent shots, and first in perimeter defense, allowing team’s to make just 28.8 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

After starting the season 3-0, the Mystics have dropped six straight, including an 81-64 loss to Los Angeles Thursday evening. Washington’s offense, which was tops in the league a year ago, now ranks 10th, averaging 97.5 points per 100 possessions. The Mystics still take good care of the basketball, ranking third in the league in turnover percentage (.173), but they are 10th in field goal percentage, 8th in three-point field goal percentage, and 11th in offensive rebound percentage.

Washington is without the services of 2019 league MVP Elena Delle Donne this season, and is instead led by a quartet of double-figure scorers in Aerial Powers (16.3), Myisha Hines-Allen (14.8), Emma Meesseman (14.1) and Ariel Atkins (14.1). Hines-Allen is the team’s top rebounder at 8.1 boards per game, while Leilani Mitchell (4.2) and Meesseman (3.9) both rank in the top 15 in the W in assists per game.

The Mystics’ Achilles heal this year, however, has been its bench. Washington averages a league-low 14.6 points per game from its reserves, and as a unit they are making 29.0 percent of their field goal attempts, including 21.0 percent from three-point range. By contrast, the Aces are averaging 32.2 points per game from their reserve corps, on 48.7 percent shooting from the field, and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Las Vegas is 24-27 all-time against Washington, which includes an 83-77 victory against the Mystics on August 5 of this year. A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 20 points in the game, while Dearica Hamby chipped in with a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double, and Danielle Robinson poured in a season-high 20 points off the bench.