Sparks drop to 0-2 after falling short against Aces

D.J. Cabanlong-The Sporting Tribune
The Sparks lose to the Aces despite a career-best 29 points from Dearica Hamby.

LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Sparks gave the two-time defending WNBA champions Las Vegas Aces a heck of a fight. But in the end, they lost to the Aces, 89-82, as L.A. goes to 0-2 for the season.

At one point, the Sparks were up on the Aces, 32-25, in the second period as they gave the two-time champions all they can handle on the defensive end. But Las Vegas came back and ended the first half with a 17-1 run.

The Sparks wouldn’t go away as every time the Aces went up by double figures, Los Angeles would rally back. The deficit would go down to 86-82 but Cameron Brink missed a three-pointer with under a minute left. Jackie Young would bury one of her own threes and it was curtains for the Sparks.

Still, head coach Curt Miller couldn’t be more proud of the effort the Sparks put forth.

“Just a really proud coach after that game,” said Miller. “We will be the first to tell you that there’s no moral victories in pro basketball for coming close. But what we look like after 12 days of practice with a lot of new pieces is really exciting about where we can be and where we’re going in this direction of the team.”

Dearica Hamby’s season is off to a sparkling start. She put in a career-best 29 points against her former Las Vegas teammates.

“Just think the belief from my coach and my teammates just to be aggressive,” answered Hamby after asked about her career game. “Got off to an easy start, a quick six points, then I kind of shied away a little bit. Second half, I went to the locker room, I told myself to be the best player on the floor. Go out there and show that. Then the switch flipped.”

The rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson had very notable games as well. Even when she got into foul trouble, Brink had eight rebounds and five blocks. She only scored three points but left an indelible mark in the game.

“I thought Cameron really affected the defensive end with her rim protection. I know they credited her with five blocks but she also altered shots,” said Miller about Brink. “Her defensive presence, while she didn’t have as good of an offensive night and is capable of having, she really impacted the game that way.”

Rickea Jackson went 5 for 6 from the field, scoring 13 points in a smooth manner.

”Rickea is a special talent offensively,” said the Sparks coach. “She sparked us and was really efficient. She showed her versatility. She can be an undersized face-up four that’s hard to match up with and, eventually, she’s gonna get better and better at the three and in this position in the league.”

Miller continued, “So I’m excited about those young lottery picks. They’re just scratching the surface. They’ve had 12 pro practices and they just competed against the back-to-back champions like they belong. And they do belong.”

The Sparks packed the paint to stop the inside attack and it worked out as L.A. outscored Vegas, 52-34, in the paint. But the Aces took advantage of turnovers. The Sparks had 18 compared to 13 for Las Vegas. The champs scored 26 points off those turnovers. They also made eight more threes than Los Angeles.

Like Coach Miller said, there are no moral victories for the Sparks. But for them to keep up with the champions is very impressive and they hope to follow it up with better performances in the coming weeks.

As mentioned, Dearica Hamby led the Sparks with 29 points. Lexie Brown supplemented L.A.’s scoring with 16 points while Kia Nurse scored all 13 of her points in the first half. Rickea Jackson also had 13.

After a slow start, A’ja Wilson led Las Vegas as she scored 22 points and grabbed 10 boards. Jackie Young put in 22 points and dished out 11 assists.

The Sparks go back home and play in the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach on Tuesday against the Washington Mystics.

The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this report.