Wings end Aces 9 game streak after late free throws

Lucas Peltier-USA Today Sports

The Las Vegas Aces were unable to win their tenth consecutive game on a night when Kelsey Plum returned after missing the previous game, losing to the Dallas Wings 80-78.

The Las Vegas Aces fall to 16-2 on the season after losing 80-78 to the Dallas Wings. 

A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum led the way for the Aces with 21 points a piece, while Chelsea Gray scored 14, Jackie Young added 12. 

Arike Ogunbowale led the Wings with 21 points, followed by Natasha Howard with 16 and Crystal Dangerfield and Teaira Mccowan with 14. 

The Aces  led by 11 points late in the third quarter and by six entering the fourth. Dallas would go on to tie the game with 6:30 left on Teaira McCowan’s putback hoop, setting up a frenetic finish.

The Wings would grab three offensive rebounds on the final possession of the game leading to Natasha Howard drawing a foul with 0.4 remaining. Howard drained both free throws giving the Wings an 80-78 lead. The clock would start prematurely on the inbounds from the Aces causing a redo of the inbounds play. Jackie Young would catch and knock down the shot but it would be too late. 

“The clock was going off before she caught it and that is pretty unacceptable and that should never happen” Hammon said. “That was pretty close to as unethical as you can get and as unfortunate as you can get at the end of a game.”

Here are three takeaways from the game:

The Return of Kelsey Plum  

In the Aces matchup with the Wings earlier in the week, Kelsey Plum was out due to a non covid illness. Plum returned to action Friday night and had a huge impact on the game, finishing with 21 points and 6 assists. The ability to get downhill and also Plum’s three point shooting as well as her scoring was something that was missing last game. 

“It’s 30 points out of the lineup at the end of the day she is in on a lot of different things,” Hammon said. “She really does some things that other players don’t do so when you’re missing that she’s a big piece of us.”

Wings Zone Defense 

After a dominant third quarter from the Aces where they shot 9-15 from the field and 3-4 from three with only two turnovers the Dallas Wings switched over to a zone defense. The zone defense slowed down the Aces and forced them into tough looks and also some crucial late game turnovers. 

In the fourth quarter the Aces shot just 5-15 from the field and 2-10 from three there worst shooting quarter of the game. The Aces also had trouble getting to the foul line in the fourth quarter shooting zero free throws after putting up 17 through three quarters.  

“We had open looks, we missed them,” Hammon said. “We go 2-10 in that fourth quarter with five turnovers, no free throws shot in the fourth quarter and conversely you can just probably swap those numbers out and that’s how they did but in a good way.”

Wings Dominate Points in the Paint 

The Dallas Wings won the battle in points in the paint 44-34 last time these two teams met. Friday’s outing was more of the same as the Wings dominated the Aces in points in the paint 46-22. Second chance points played a huge factor as they also beat the Aces in that category 16-7.

“They have owned the paint bottom line, they smashed us in the paint” Hammon said. “They beat us on the boards, they beat us in fast break points, they beat us in second chance points.”

Plum added: “We didn’t win the paint we didn’t win the boards and we lost the turnover battle so it’s kind of a triple fecta on the road and it’s hard to win games like that.”

The Aces will continue this short road trip with a matchup against the Minnesota Lynx Sunday  tip off set for 4 p.m. PT.