The young, upstart Las Vegas Aces outclassed the defending champion Minnesota Lynx Friday night at Target Center. Receiving the opposition’s “A-Game” is not a new thing for the dynastic Lynx, but this season, more of those games have resulted in losses. Kayla McBride was electric for Las Vegas. She nearly had a triple double with 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Lindsay Whalen went into the time machine and recorded her best stat line of the summer scoring a season high 22 points, grabbing six rebounds and throwing five dimes.
With a new coach (Bill Laimbeer) a new franchise home (Las Vegas), and another number one overall pick (A’ja Wilson) the Aces are a franchise reborn. While they still have a losing record at 10-12, the team has separated itself from the other sub-.500 teams in the WNBA. Wilson is the real deal. She’s third in the league in scoring and rebounding, sixth in blocks and first in attempted free throws. As an ultra-athletic, face up big, Wilson has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop from just about everywhere inside the three point line. Las Vegas looked great in this game and gave their fans and the rest of the league another look at what is to come in the not-so-distant future.
Bring Brunson Back
For the second straight game the Lynx were without their versatile power forward Rebekkah Brunson. She’s the key to Minnesota’s league leading defense due to her motor, ability to switch, and glass cleaning rebounding. In general, Brunson covers up any defensive issues the team may have and always knows exactly where to be. The Lynx fared well without her Wednesday in Indiana, but her absence left a gaping hole in this game.
When the Lynx switch in pick and roll coverage Brunson does a great job of “kicking out” her teammates in mismatch situations. With her on the bench in street clothes, there were multiple occasions where Minnesota’s help defense was caught way behind the play. The Aces easily moved the ball around and got their whole team involved finishing the game with 26 assists on 31 made field goals. The Lynx pride themselves on putting together stretches of consecutive stops. That was totally missing against the Aces as they scored a steady stream of points throughout the night.
Tale of Two Bigs
Sylvia Fowles had one of her least productive nights of the summer. Playing all but 90 seconds of the game Fowles attempted nine shots and only connected on two of them. When Fowles doesn’t score the ball the Lynx really struggle to generate easy offense. While Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and others were able to find the bottom of the net, the team was generally scoring from the perimeter, which is not ideal for this Lynx team. Las Vegas did what most teams have done against Fowles this season and made her play in a crowd. Head coach Cheryl Reeve spoke after the game about what she needs her team to do when the defense collapses on their starting center.
“Its not about (Fowles) catching it where she wants to catch it. Its about playing around her and continuing to move, come back to her after the defense shifted and go get an offensive rebounds”
A’ja Wilson, the Aces star post player also couldn’t buy a bucket. She had a number of shots in the paint simply rim out as she shot 4-16 from the field. However, Wilson got it done in other ways, pulling down 15 rebounds, dishing five assists and swatting four opponent shots. Despite her troubles putting points on the board she hit an enormous lefty driving layup with under a minute left to essentially seal the game.
Perhaps the Lynx could have won this game with a fully healthy lineup. But every team deals with injuries. That cannot be the excuse here. Minnesota simply needs more from their role players, especially when a key starter is missing. That seven game win streak feels like ages ago. The team will continue its search for consistency as this confounding season unfolds.
-Whalen hit three threes on her way to a season high 22 points. It was her highest regular season scoring mark since August 28th 2016.
-Minnesota ritualistically tips the game’s opening jump ball to their opponent in order to receive the basketball to begin the second and third quarters. Las Vegas flipped the script on Minnesota and purposely threw the ball out of bounds to begin Friday’s game. Very strange situation. Asked about it after the game Kelsey Plum wryly smiled and offered a “no comment.”
-This win marks the first time the Las Vegas franchise has defeated the Lynx in Minnesota since 2010.
Minnesota will play host to the Connecticut Sun on Sunday night. Tip off is at 6pm. You can watch on FSN or NBA TV and listen at BOB 106FM.