Aces’ struggles continue in loss to Sparks

Jordon Kelly-The Sporting Tribune
The Aces continued to limp through the early part of their schedule, dropping to 5-4 with their third loss in four games.

The short-handed Aces were unable to get themselves back in the win column on Sunday night, falling to the Sparks 96-92 in Los Angeles. The Aces were without star guard Jackie Young in the loss, who missed the game with an illness she had been dealing with for the previous two games. 

It was the third loss in four games for the two-time defending champions, whose current record looks out of place enough to do a double take. Any goodwill they had established with their 4-1 start to the season through five games is all but wiped out before they’ve even made it to their tenth game. 

“These times are hard, but I guarantee they won’t last forever,” Wilson said. “I was just saying in the huddle, ‘we’re going to be good’, we just have to keep going.”

Becky Hammon added: “There’s no sense of feeling sorry for ourselves. I’m not terribly mad at the adversity early, I want to be healthy late. We just can’t put ourselves in a hole we can’t dig out of.”

With the loss, the Aces also fall to 1-2 in the Commissioner’s Cup standings. The Aces fell short in the tournament final last season after winning the event in 2022, but this season appears to be a different story for them. 

Rookie Kate Martin earned her first career WNBA start in the midst of Young’s absence. Martin was both strong and efficient throughout, scoring 13 points on an impressive 5-of-7 shooting from the field including a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc. 

A’ja Wilson continued her trademark dominance in the loss, leading the Aces in all three major statistical categories with 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists. It was expected that Wilson would have an even more substantial role in the offense than usual with Young out, and the two-time MVP settled in and delivered with an especially strong second half performance. 

”I’m sitting next to the best player in the world,” Martin said, referring to Wilson. “Not only is she the best player in the world, she’s the best leader I’ve ever been around.”

Dearica Hamby’s dream start to the season continued for LA, as the second year Spark and former champion with the Aces led the team in scoring with 18 points in the win. Hamby has been a problem for the Aces in both meetings with the Sparks, with this performance topping last month’s 29-point outburst against them last month.

Kelsey Plum added 24 points for the Aces in the loss on an inefficient 7-of-22 from the field, while newly-acquired Tiffany Hayes chipped in 17 points off the bench. The problem was, besides the four aforementioned Aces players, the next highest scorer for the team on Sunday night was Alysha Clark with just five points.

This isn’t the WNBA of two years ago or even last year. The rest of the teams in the league have already minimized what was once thought to be a substantial talent gap between the Aces and the other teams in the league. Games that the Aces have been able to escape with the last two seasons aren’t games they will be able to get away with stealing in this league any longer. 

The Aces return home and will look to right the ship on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Lynx at Michelob Ultra Arena.