Aces rout Liberty 98-81 in a matchup of marquee WNBA teams for their 7th straight win

Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum (10) during a WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream,...
Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum (10) during a WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream, Friday, June 2, 2023, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)(Danny Karnik | AP)
Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 7:18 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Becky Hammon wasn’t going to put too much into the Las Vegas Aces’ rout of the New York Liberty in the first meeting between two of the top teams in the WNBA.

“We’re in June still. We’re not banking too much on this,” Hammon said after the 98-81 win Thursday night. “Feels better than losing. At the end of the day we have a lot of basketball left to be played.”

It was the seventh consecutive win for the Aces (14-1), who have been nearly unstoppable this season on offense, averaging nearly 93 points a game. All five of the Las Vegas starters scored in double figures, with A’ja Wilson putting in 16 while Jackie Young and Candace Parker each added 15. Chelsea Gray had 14 points and six assists, including a few highlight reel ones.

The Aces pulled away in the second half to run away with the much-hyped first matchup between the teams who made the biggest moves in the offseason, with the defending champion Aces signing Parker and Alysha Clark. The Liberty added Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot and Kayla Thornton.

The teams came into the game ranked first and second in points per game and both play an unselfish brand of basketball, with the Liberty first in assists and the Aces second.

Las Vegas was sharing the ball extremely well with all five starters having at least three assists, including eight by Plum.

“It’s dangerous, in terms of the way we play and the way we can play in the halfcourt, in secondary and transition,” Parker said. “I think it’s great. we have people like (Kelsey) that run and cut. ... 32 assists on 40 field goals that says a lot about us and the way we play.”

The Aces were able to contain the Liberty on offense, contesting nearly every shot. On offense, they jumped out to a strong start behind Plum, who had 13 points in the first quarter as the Aces led 28-22.

New York (10-4) trailed 49-42 at the half, but Las Vegas scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to blow the game open and extended the advantage to 18.

The Liberty, who had their four-game winning streak snapped, didn’t get within single digits the rest of the way. The teams will play three more times in the regular season.

“They were a well-oiled machine today,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “We got to be more disruptive. There are areas we can look at where we can get better. Hopefully they can’t shoot nearly 60% from the field.”

Stewart scored 16 points and Jones added 13 for the Liberty.

“They are the team you can gauge yourself against. They have the best record in the league,” Jones said. “Obviously it hurts, we want to put our best foot forward. Ultimately we have the season to get better and learn from this.”

It’s been a busy week for New York. The Liberty played an overtime win against Washington on Sunday, edged Connecticut on the road on Tuesday before traveling all day Wednesday to get to Las Vegas for Thursday night’s game.