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Aces 98, Lynx 81: Turnovers, Fouling Sink Minnesota vs Reigning Champs

A’ja Wilson’s 35 points and 14 rebounds lifted the Aces past the Lynx, who were led by No. 2 overall pick Diamond Miller’s 17 points.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx returned to the Target Center floor on Saturday afternoon for the second time in less than 48 hours, this time looking to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Las Vegas Aces, but fell short 98-81 in their fourth consecutive loss of 17 points or more against the reigning WNBA champs.

2022 WNBA MVP and Finals MVP A’ja Wilson destroyed the Lynx, connecting on 14 of her 17 shots for a final tally of 35 points to go along with 14 rebounds, a pair of assists and two steals in 34 minutes.

Things won’t get any easier, as Saturday afternoon was the first game of a treacherous stretch Minnesota faces over the next couple of weeks. The Lynx’s next five matchups are all against teams above them in the standings, including a pair of games against the second place New York Liberty and a two-game set in Uncasville against the third place Connecticut Sun.

Let’s get into the takeaways.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

A Class of Their Own

There is no shame in failing to keep pace with arguably the greatest offensive team in the history of the WNBA.

When the Aces visited Target Center earlier this month, Kelsey Plum dropped 40 points while four of her teammates scored in double figures. On Saturday, four more Las Vegas players provided double-digit ancillary scoring behind Wilson’s game-high 35.

“I thought we were too soft on Wilson,” Lynx Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve told Canis Hoopus postgame. “I thought we were too far away from her in pick and roll.

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Playing too far off of Wilson and then at times over-committing to her was a big factor in Las Vegas shooting 13/16 (81.2%) in the short mid-range area (4-14 feet) — compared to Minnesota’s 5/17 (29.4%) — and a key focal point of the Aces’ offense.

“We didn’t bring necessary help. We were late. We stick a hand in there rather than a body on her drives. So pretty much everything we didn’t do well and then we fouled her at the end of possessions. So nothing went really that well with regard to A’ja. Great player, no doubt, but I thought we could have done better there.”

“A’ja is really talented. I think the biggest thing that’s hard for us is she’s really long, so closing out to her she has a high shot so you just gotta contest and hope she misses, honestly,” Lynx star Napheesa Collier told Canis postgame. “Just do the best that you can, make it hard for her to catch it.”

Minnesota, meanwhile, had only three players in double-digits, and their two top scorers — Diamond Miller (17) and Collier (16) — failed to out-score the mark Wilson put up by herself.

What makes the Aces incredibly dangerous is their insistence upon passing up good shots to get great ones. Minnesota tried to throw a zone at the Aces several times throughout the game, but Las Vegas had no problem with getting the ball to the middle of the floor and creating easy looks from there either in the paint or beyond the arc.

“So we got to keep teaching them that players with the ball are the ones that’s going to score, so we got to have that trust that that’s how you build your defense and get your rotations identified,” Reeve added.

“I thought we would miss our first line of help. So then somebody would have their back and go help, but that player still was helping, and so we had multiple players coming to the ball and then passes out to perimeter were uncontested a fair amount in the second half.”

This play here is a good example. Kayla McBride gets caught playing too far up the line in back-side help after a Jackie Young/Wilson PnR rep and it results in a wide open corner 3 for Alysha Clark.

The Lynx had a clear objective to pack the paint and limit the damage the Aces did inside, but still gave up 44 points in the paint — more than Las Vegas’s average of 40.5 paint points per game — and sent the Aces to the free throw line 24 times with a majority of those fouls coming in the paint. Vegas shot just 8/25 (32%) from deep, but that was more a result of missing open shots rather than Minnesota’s defense making the Aces take a number of tough 3s.

“They stay true to their identity all the time. And it’s all the time effort, you got the leadership at the top. And that’s what we talked about, like takeaways for us today. That’s who we strive to be,” Reeve said.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Diamond Miller Continues to Show Brilliance Through Resilience

My favorite thing about Diamond Miller is that she is an incredible competitor. If she makes a mistake, not only does she not let it phase her, but she comes right back and wants to fix it on the next possession. That was on full display against the Aces on Saturday.

Miller committed a couple early turnovers that each resulted in 3-pointers for Las Vegas on the other end, snowballing into a 19-6 Aces run in the first six minutes of play. But the No. 2 overall pick responded immediately with two scores after a timeout that ignited an 8-0 Lynx run to close the quarter and reduce the deficit to five at the end of the quarter.

“We talked about before the game, her kind of learning from the last time we played Vegas and got her shot blocked repeatedly, forcing that sort of thing. I thought she was hyper aware in the paint, almost hesitant,” Reeve said, adding the team needed to get her the ball more when she had advantageous matchups.

The former Maryland star went up against five-time All-Star and two-time WNBA Champion Chelsea Gray on both ends of the floor for most of the day, which excited Reeve.

“Overall, I think she learned. I loved the matchup with Gray. That’s probably my favorite thing. We knew it’d be challenging, but I think overall, I agree [that Miller stacked another good offensive showing].”

“Phee’s an All-Star and I played with and against All-Stars almost every night and that’s really fun for me. I love basketball. I love to be competitive. I love to be like, ‘She’s really good. Let’s see what I could do against that,’” Miller said postgame.

“It’s kind of like I challenged myself and that is a big challenge for me. My defense is, you know, it’s part of my game that is something that I really am trying to work better at. And I feel like the coaching staff has thrown me against her, it’s really tough.

The rookie acknowledged that Gray got the best of her a couple times, but the great thing about Miller is that she views everything as a learning experience.

“Sometimes when I was taking breaks on defense, she capitalized on it. So, it’s just constantly like the evolution of my game. But yeah, as a competitor I’m like so happy to play against her. It’s really cool.”

With that said, Miller still made several incredibly athletic defensive plays that flash the potential she possesses on that end of the floor. The more she confident she gets as an off-ball defender in the Lynx defensive concepts, the more she’ll be able to unleash her length and speed to close on plays like this.

“I think [Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray] were trying to go at the rookie quite a bit. It was a great game for Diamond to experience some really difficult play. So [what] I probably enjoyed the most today, is just kind of seeing her respond and get schooled at times and then turn around and respond back and make her best play, being the block shot against Gray,” Reeve said.

“Diamond Miller versus Chelsea Gray should be a really good matchup in terms of those tough shots that Chelsea Gray makes. I think the player that we have that can keep her from that is Diamond Miller, so that was that was an important thing for us today.”

Miller continued her strong play into the second quarter, during which she scored three times to keep the Lynx offense afloat while her teammates were weathering a drought and struggling to find a collective rhythm. Those are the kinds of difficult situations that bring the best out of future stars like Miller and it isn’t lost on the rookie, who has seen Collier do it all year.

“One thing I feel like I learned just from watching Phee and the other All-Stars is the consistency level,” Miller told Canis. “It’s hard in the W, we play pretty much, some weeks you’re playing three-to-four games a week and to still be able to show up for your team is something that makes a good player into a great player. So just constantly being able to consistently be a dog every day.”

Miller’s All-Star teammate heaped praise on her rookie postgame, saying it’s ‘really cool’ to see how Miller evolves within a game and how quickly she’s grown as a player.

“You can see the growth that Diamond’s had already this season as she’s gone along. She’s so eager to learn and as she just said, she’s super passionate and a competitor. So it’s really fun to play with that,” Collier told Canis. “And then she’s also really coachable. Like if you tell her something, she will try to the best of her ability to do that. And that’s why I think that she’s been able to get better so fast this season.”

Collier knows what it’s like to be a rookie and how difficult it can be when you’re making mistakes and feel like you may not have the space to fail while playing alongside other professionals in a relentless setting.

After getting blocked seven times in the Lynx’s matchup with Las Vegas earlier this month, Miller turned around and made four of her five shots in the paint and was not blocked once en route to scoring a team-high 17 points on 7/15 shooting.

That’s just one small example of why the way Miller carries herself is even more impressive to the three-time All-Star.

“Also, something I really appreciate about Diamond is like she has a short memory when it comes to that on the court. If she makes a mistake, it’s not going to stop her from trying to attack again or trying to learn from that or she isn’t getting in her head about that,” she added. “Which is really hard to do, especially as a rookie, when you’re trying to find your place on the team. You’re trying to adjust your game to a new style. So that’s something that I’ve appreciated about her since the beginning and you know, I hope she continues to do.”

The intense eagerness to learn that Miller has, whether it’s on the court or in the film room, is both extremely rare for a rookie and the rocket fuel that will power her forthcoming ascension to stardom. Players who work as hard as Miller does, crave improvement like Miller does, and are willing to listen like Miller is do not fail. They may hit bumps in the road — just as the rookie has this season — but they are never knocked off their path and often find themselves at the center of a winning culture.

While the Lynx may not currently have the same firepower from 1-to-12 as the league’s elites, it is very clear that with Collier and Miller at the forefront, Minnesota’s future is very bright and the team’s front office has a wonderful foundation to build upon moving forward.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Quick Hitters

Kayla McBride Finds a Rhythm

After a resurgent stretch across six games from late June to early July in which Kayla McBride shot 18/38 (47.4%), the Lynx veteran entered the fourth quarter on Saturday shooting just two for her last 21 from deep in her previous 15 quarters. With the game already decided, Reeve kept McBride on the floor to try and help her veteran find a rhythm. McBuckets made good on the opportunity, connecting on three of her four triples in the final frame.

McBride’s reaction seeing the first one go down says it all.

“It was important. It’s why I kept during the game is that we needed her to find a couple, to see a couple go done,” Reeve said. “We absolutely, that was a mission before we got out of here, and so I was glad to see that happen.”

Minnesota will need McBride to carry that over into Wednesday’s matchup against the Washington Mystics, while maintaining her excellent work on the defensive end of the floor with Natasha Cloud and Brittney Sykes coming to town.


The Lynx caught the turnover bug again on Saturday afternoon, with their 15 giveaways leading to 25 Aces points. Unfortunately for Minnesota, Las Vegas turned it over 14 times themselves, but the Lynx mustered only 11 points off of those miscues. Eight of the Lynx’s 15 turnovers (53.3%) were live-ball turnovers, compared to just five of 14 (35.7%) for the Aces, so it makes sense that Vegas was able to convert at a higher clip. However, three more live ball turnovers doesn’t account for a 14-point gap, and scoring off opponents’ turnovers at a better rate is a key area the Lynx need to focus on if they want to steal a win or two during an upcoming stretch of games against elite teams.

Next Up

Minnesota will welcome Washington to Target Center for a 7 PM matchup with the Mystics, the only team above the Lynx in the standings that Minnesota has defeated this season. Three of Washington’s starters — superstar forward Elena Delle Donne, All-Star point guard Ariel Atkins and talented center Shakira Austin — are all expected to miss the contest. Fans can watch the game on NBA TV or Bally Sports North.

Game Highlights