June 6, 2021 

Film room: Aces 96, Mystics 93

Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles, Las Vegas’ nail help, and Ariel Atkins’ career day

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The Aces beat the Mystics 96-93 on Saturday night, a hard-fought victory representing a quality loss for a Washington (2-5, 1-3 in the Commissioner’s Cup) team that has had a rough start to its season. Las Vegas (7-3, 2-1 Commissioner’s Cup) trailed significantly in the second quarter and pulled away just enough in the third quarter to weather a furious Mystics comeback. Liz Cambage paced the Aces with 24 points and Riquna Williams added 20 with 4-6 3-point shooting, while the Mystics were led by Ariel Atkins’ career-high 29 points and a 32-point, 13-rebound double-double from Myisha Hines-Allen.

Let’s look at some film from last night’s game.

1Q, 8:48; LV 3, WAS 0 — Mystics get on the board with an Atkins floater. She’s too quick at the point of attack for Williams, and the Mystics are going to need to take advantage of midrange space in this game, especially against Cambage.

1Q, 8:36; LV 3, WAS 2 — Jackie Young just gives Shavonte Zellous the work with the post-move, and Zellous can’t move her feet or hips enough to stay in front.

1Q, 8:20; LV 5, WAS 2 — This is really good vision and timing from Tina Charles on the empty-side post (even though the perfect pass is probably to look at Hines-Allen and hit Natasha Cloud). Hines-Allen’s drive and jumping is excellent too, she just misses a bunny.

1Q, 7:44; LV 5, WAS 2 — Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles. (Hines-Allen was actually a beat or so late on this cut, but no harm, no foul.)

1Q, 7:04; LV 7, WAS 6 — Technically happens offscreen, but Aces target Zellous again, this time via zipper screen from A’ja Wilson. Zellous gets swallowed up, open catch-and-shoot for Williams.

1Q, 6:13; LV 11, WAS 8 — Young takes a bad angle on her recovery and removes herself from contesting Cloud’s drive. Cloud knows she’s got Young beat, and as soon as Cambage commits to Cloud, she looks for a beautiful wraparound pass to Charles.

1Q, 4:31; LV 13, WAS 17 — Excellent drive-and-kick from Hines-Allen, but Charles is hesitant to catch-and-shoot, and the weakside spacing is a little tight so she can’t pass past Williams’ stunt, and the Mystics have to reset.

1Q, 3:15; LV 16, WAS 20 — Hines-Allen flips the screen, turning a shallow drop into an accidental switch, and releases at just the right time for the open look. The best way to beat a switch is with a slip, and the best way to beat a drop is to turn it into a switch. (Young should also probably help off of Zellous, a career 29.5% 3-point shooter, to tag the roll.)

1Q, 1:53; LV 21, WAS 24 — Atkins’ pass here is sensational — skip pass over 6’3 Dearica Hamby, landing almost perfectly in Charles’ shooting pocket — and she sets it up with a subtle in-and-out to get Young shading to the left to open up space.

1Q, 0:37; LV 21, WAS 27 — Erica McCall tries to front Wilson, but there’s no on-ball pressure or backside help, and you can’t front without those.

1Q, 0:26; LV 24, WAS 27 — Hines-Allen is getting really good at flipping screens.

2Q, 9:51; LV 24, WAS 29 — I’m imagining that a Mystics lineup with 6’1 Hines-Allen at the 5 isn’t going to hold up against 6’8 Cambage.

2Q, 8:15; LV 28, WAS 35 — Young posting up another wing is generally bad news for the other team (even if this is a travel), and Hamby’s step-up helps get Kiara Leslie moving to make her coverage harder.

2Q, 7:19; LV 31, WAS 40 — This is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen, my goodness. (It’s also kind of strange, considering Cambage wasn’t exactly dominating this matchup yet? But I digress.)

2Q, 5:32; LV 38, WAS 44 — Charles has outscored Cambage 6-2 in their one-on-ones since Cambage laughed at her (excluding free throws). Good inverted screen by Atkins, too.

2Q, 5:23; LV 38, WAS 46 — Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles. (Hines-Allen times this cut perfectly.)

2Q, 4:59; LV 41, WAS 48 — Young has been poor at navigating ball screens in this game, and her getting swallowed up shooting between Charles and Cambage forces Wilson to rotate over, which forces Chelsea Gray to rotate. Maybe she should’ve stunted instead of covering Hines-Allen, but I’m splitting hairs here.

2Q, 4:43; LV 43, WAS 51 — Mystics go back to the same action. Wilson’s probably always the nail help on this, but Young’s poor recovery angle means Wilson has to leave Hines-Allen completely.

2Q, 4:22; LV 43, WAS 51 — Young finds No Man’s Land in transition and loses Leilani Mitchell; third straight possession Young’s been at fault for an open three.

2Q, 3:18; LV 47, WAS 51 — Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles, and I’ve no idea how the heck she knew to drop this dime. An inverted screen from Zellous get Cambage moving so she can’t set against Charles.

2Q, 2:29; LV 51, WAS 53 — Young continues to get moved way off Cloud by ball screens — she’s just lucky the Mystics have missed most of the shots that have resulted.

2Q, 0:53; LV 54, WAS 53 — Mystics empty side pick-and-roll. Hines-Allen calls for Mitchell to clear baseline, Aces show well but Hamby’s recovery is inefficient, so Hines-Allen gets the entry deep in the post. Charles lifting to the slot pulls Gray from nail help, and Hines-Allen is too athletic for Hamby, plus excellent touch on the finish.

2Q, 0:29; LV 54, WAS 55 — Talk about bad luck.

3Q, 6:47; LV 62, WAS 59 — For the first time, Charles makes the wrong pass. McCall’s cut holds Gray and leaves Zellous wide open, but the ball goes to Atkins, who can’t do much with it and takes a tough floater.

3Q, 5:18; LV 67, WAS 61 — Aces show on the PnR, with Cambage helping from the nail. But Cambage overhelps and effectively switches instead of tagging, leaving a two-on-three on the weakside. With Gray moving onto Mitchell instead of stunting while Kelsey Plum rotates, Atkins is left wide open.

3Q, 3:59; LV 69, WAS 64 — Aces still showing on PnR, and Wilson overhelps. Hines-Allen doesn’t pass through Plum’s stunt, but her drive occupies Wilson, who should be recovering to Mitchell (since Las Vegas doesn’t usually switch on ball). So she’s got an open three.

3Q, 2:18; LV 71, WAS 69 — The same idea as the last couple clips, but Plum is the nail defender this time. She runs it perfectly, nailing long enough to deter Cloud’s drive, but recovering right on the pass, and the Mystics have to recycle the possession.

4Q, 6:53; LV 84, WAS 77 — Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles. Here she looks off Wilson just long enough to ensure that Theresa Plaisance’s shot is completely open.

4Q 2:46; LV 90, WAS 80 — Tina “Nikola Jokić” Charles, with a nice touch pass from Zellous to Atkins for the three.

4Q, 2:09; LV 90, WAS 83 — Atkins, Movement Shooter. Charles’ little bump screen gives her enough separation for an easier catch-and-shoot.

4Q, 1:00; LV 90, WAS 90 — After Hines-Allen converts two free throws, the Mystics have completed a 2:20-long, 13-0 run to tie the game with just a minute to go.

4Q, 0:08; LV 94, 90 — The Aces’ four-point lead with 8.6 seconds to go is going to be too much for the Mystics to overcome, but what a heck of a way for Atkins to cap off her career day.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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