August 29, 2022
Aces will need to both slow down and speed up if they want to even up semifinal series against Seattle
Las Vegas will need to learn from their mistakes of Game 1 if they want to win Game 2 against the Storm
LAS VEGAS — There were a lot of expectations for the semifinal matchup between the WNBA’s top-seeded Las Vegas Aces and the fourth-seeded Seattle Storm. With seven former No. 1 overall picks playing in the series, why would anyone expect anything but a knock-down, drag-out fight?
Well, that’s just what we got on Sunday, as the Storm stunned the Aces at home 76-73 to steal Game 1. Now, the Aces will need to make adjustments if they want to even up the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Get off to a better start
The Aces came out of the gates really slow, falling down 13-4 after the first three and a half minutes of the game. They found themselves down 11 after the first quarter. The Aces have struggled with slow starts in some of their losses during the regular season. Four of their ten losses they fell behind by a large margin after the first quarter. Down the stretch of the regular season, the Aces lost two crucial games to Dallas and Atlanta after trailing by big margins after the first quarter and Sunday was no exception.
“We didn’t come out of the gates the way we wanted to. Gave up 26 In the first quarter, and then basically digging out of a hole the rest of the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t do some of the things that we talked about,” said Aces coach Becky Hammon. “I thought we played tight. Especially in the first quarter we played tight. We played like the world was on our shoulders.”
To be able to bounce back and win Game 2, the Aces are going to need to come out of the locker room on a better note. They had a playoff record crowd at Michelob Ultra Arena and they will need to feed off of the crowd’s energy from the tip. They will need their offense to find its rhythm a lot earlier as it has struggled in both of the team’s game ones so far this postseason. They made a record number of 3-pointers in Game 2 against Phoenix, so I expect the offense to gel sooner in Game 2 against Seattle.
Retake the transition game
The Aces were the third best team in the regular season in terms of fast break points. Seattle was number two. In Game 1, it was the Storm dominated that phase of the game, outscoring Las Vegas 16-0 in that area. There were three straight possessions in the third quarter where Seattle scored layups in transition. Two of them were long Sue Bird football-like passes and the third came after a made Aces basket. The Aces lead the league in pace, so to get blanked in transition is stunning.
“Probably the worst part about it is they were live ball turnovers. So they’re just getting out and running. Like I said, 16-0 in transition, so not very good job on our part either attacking back at them when we did get stops,” said Hammon. “I mean I can’t recall very many times where we kicked the ball ahead or when we did we made bad rim raids. You gotta have an angle.
“You gotta have patience. You got to change your pace sometimes. But I thought we were in a hurry to win the game.”
The Aces need to get that stat back closer to even if not win it if they don’t want to fall into a 2-0 hole. The Aces are great when the get stops and can get out and run. They tried to do that in Game 1, but their transition baskets weren’t falling. They also were settling for outside shots and turning the ball over which led to a lot of Seattle runouts. The Aces need to secure rebounds and look for angles to attack in transition as well as take better shots on offense in order to limit the Storm’s opportunities for fastbreak points.
Take a breath on offense
The Aces were the number one offense in the league this season, averaging 90 points per game. However, the Aces only scored 73 against Seattle and a lot of why they struggled to score was due to quick shots and turnovers. The Aces were the number one team in the WNBA in terms of fewest turnovers, but Seattle forced them into 11 turnovers and added a ton of deflections as well. Also, offensively at times, the Aces were settling for outside shots and didn’t move the ball the way we’re used to seeing them do when they are at their best.
“There were times where we were passive, or we were settling a little bit with outside jumpers. There were a few possessions where we didn’t even get into the paint and we’re our best when we get into the paint and kick out for threes. And we’re passing the ball a little bit,” Chelsea Gray said. “We’ll see this in his next game in the second game how we respond. We’ll be fine, we just have to clean up a lot of things defensively and share it a little bit more offensively.”
In Game 2, the Aces’ biggest priority on offense will be to be a little calmer and to get the ball to their MVP candidate, A’ja Wilson. Wilson had just 10 shot attempts in game one and just one in the fourth quarter. For the Aces to battle back in this series, they will need to feed Wilson the ball more and have her look to be aggressive at every opportunity.
They also need to try to move the ball and look for their teammates a little more. In their three wins against Seattle in the regular season, the Aces averaged 94 points. They know they can score on the Storm, they just need to look for each other and try to play at a more under control pace.
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.