The Morning After: Aces vs Sparks Special Edition

A special edition of the Morning After: A recap of the Sparks/Aces game on June 29 and a preview of the Aces/Sparks game on July 1.

Quick takes on the previous day's games

Los Angeles Sparks vs. Las Vegas Aces 06-29-18 (Aces won, 94-79)

[Technically, this article is being written the morning after the game, as the game did not end until after midnight East Coast time--my time zone--on Saturday morning, June 30.]

This is a special edition of The Morning After, given the back-to-back games between the Las Vegas Aces and the Los Angeles Sparks. So you’ll be getting a twofer: a recap of the first game on June 29, and a preview/scouting report of the second game on July 1. Let’s discuss!

There Is no “I” in “Team”

Every active player on the Las Vegas roster scored last night except Kelsey Bone, and that wasn’t for lack of effort on her part--she had one assist and one steal and was diving all over the floor for loose balls. Five players, including four of the five starters, were in double digits. The Aces shot 50% from field goal range in the first half. Kelsey Plum was rather good on defense and Lindsay Allen, though she didn't play much, got under the Sparks' skin while she was in the game. The Aces grabbed 40 (!) rebounds (compared to the Sparks’ 34 and had 23 assists (Los Angeles had 19). Las Vegas also had 31 trips to the free throw line (and converted 23 of those trips into points) while limiting Los Angeles to twelve.

Show Up and Show Out

Dearica Hamby, though…

via GIPHY

Arguably one of the quieter Aces on the court, Hamby summoned her inner goddess and hung 13 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on Los Angeles -- including a three-pointer and 4/6 on free-throw shooting. Girl, where have you been? She made life difficult for Candace Parker (!), matching Parker’s length with her own and clearly frustrating the former MVP. Hamby’s aggressive yet savvy play was a pleasant and welcome surprise (though it got her into a bit of foul trouble), and her confidence is clearly building. If she wants to stay with the Aces, she will need to bring similar games on a regular basis and, perhaps more important, believe that she can bring such games.

Here Comes McBride

Kayla McBuckets McBride wasn’t her usual high-scoring self, only having 12 points (following her season-high 27 points and 5 rebounds in the recent close loss to the Dallas Wings). But she was still doing Kayla things and added 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and one steal, as well as that “winner” energy that was flowing through the Mandalay Bay Events Center Friday night.

Grandma’s Hands

Tamera Young (affectionately called “Grandma” by some of her younger teammates, as her 11-season WNBA tenure is the longest on the team) heated up in the second half of the game. While her shots weren’t falling in the first half (as was the case for many of the Aces, the layups went in, rolled around, and popped out of the rim), Young made some key drives to the basket and got to the free throw line, where she was 3/6 (she normally shoots way higher than 50% from the charity stripe). She also added 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. #YoungieSZN

Game of Thrones

via GIPHY

There was quite a bit of buzz on how aggressive rookie A’Ja Wilson (29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) was while driving to the basket against Parker. Her lack of fear when facing up against such a decorated and revered veteran was not unnoticed, which is especially interesting given that her game (and stats) have often been compared to Parker. Parker was not only Rookie of the Year in 2008 (an achievement for which Wilson is the front-runner this season) but also made the All-Star team that year (Wilson is widely expected to make her first All-Star appearance as well in July). She was also the only other rookie in league history besides Wilson to score 35 points and 13 rebounds (Wilson got hers against the Indiana Fever on June 12).

International Incident

South Korea’s Ji-Su Park didn’t start this game but nevertheless got action against fellow rookie (and fellow 19-year-old) Maria Vadeeva of Russia, in a battle between the two youngest players in the league. She kept Vadeeva in check for the most part; Vadeeva can shoot from the top of the key just like Park, and can even shoot the three. Some things you just have to live with (like when Vadeeva shook loose for a three-point shot), but overall Park did a great job off the bench.

Rainbow Brite

The Aces actually took eight three-pointers and made five of them. Progress!

Up Next

Las Vegas Aces at Los Angeles Sparks

Sunday, July 1, 5:00 PM ET

League Pass, SPECSN (local)

Yet another test for the Aces, as they try to capitalize on their unexpected win two days prior. The Sparks will be at home and possibly joined by the team’s undisputed leader, former MVP Nneka Ogwumike, who has sat out the past three games with back spasms. But, but, but...the Sparks are coming off a two-game road trip that was very physical in both games, and have to play again just over 24 hours later. It’s a matter of pride for them to 1) snap their two-game losing streak; 2) do so in their house; and 3) not lose again to one of the lowest-ranked and youngest teams in the league.

via GIPHY

The younger Aces, who just finished a 4-game home stand, could provide another upset as they ride the momentum and a strong defensive performance into this game. It will all be for naught, though, if they can’t figure out a way to defend the three-point line and contain Chelsea Gray and Essence Carson. Both players kept Los Angeles in the game with their three-point shooting (Gray had five, Carson and Odyssey Sims had three each, and Parker, Vadeeva, and Jantel Lavender added one each). Dearica Hamby also needs to show up like she did in the past two games, and have the confidence to make her shots -- especially from three-point range. They also need to have a game plan for Ogwumike, should she return. An eye needs to be kept on the Sparks’ Riquna Williams as well; she has been awesome off the bench over the past few games and can score in bunches at will.

Speaking of confidence: there was a lot of hesitation on the part of the younger Aces to make shots. We saw it in Kelsey Plum, in rookie Jaime Nared, in Hamby. On the college level, these players wouldn’t have thought twice about taking certain shots but they have been second-guessing themselves lately in the face of the more established and decorated teams like the Sparks, the Phoenix Mercury, and the Minnesota Lynx. This cannot happen if they hope to steal a win in Los Angeles. They need to adopt McBride’s personal mantra: trust, togetherness, time.

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