Video Credit: WNBA

FSM Essential Recap: Aces vs. Mercury – Game 19

Franchise Sports Media

Las Vegas Aces (14-5) | Phoenix Mercury (8-9)

 

 

The Las Vegas Aces played in their third overtime game of the season on Wednesday night but fell in defeat 99-90 to the Brittney Griner-led Phoenix Mercury.

 

RECAP:

 

Aces vs Mercury
Photo Credit: WNBA

The superstar bigs got the game started for both the Aces and the Mercury in the early going. Brittney Griner scored six of the first 13 for Phoenix, while A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage combined for eight of Vegas’ first 14 points. Jackie Young grabbed the wheel soon after and scored eight points to give the Aces an 18-13 lead midway through the quarter. However, Phoenix responded to the Aces’ early punches with an 11-2 run to close the quarter, thanks to Brittney Griner and her ten first-quarter points. Phoenix led Vegas 24-20 after one.

Skylar Diggins-Smith and Griner got to the pick-and-roll action and created some great offense to start the quarter — earning some Diggins-Smith finishes at the rim, Griner pick-and-pop middies, and drive-and-kick opportunities for shooters. Griner, in particular, gave the Aces an array of issues as her numbers kept climbing while Cambage struggled to match on the other end. As a result, the Mercury lead would balloon to as many as eight before Wilson, Chelsea Gray, and Riquna Williams helped the Aces cut the deficit to two points.

But another Griner offensive spurt, and the Sophie Cunningham three that succeeded it, put Phoenix up 50-43 at the end of the first half.

Las Vegas looked as though they’d tried to create some tempo and play faster after the halftime break, but a string of turnovers halted those plans.

 

Aces vs Mercury
Photo Credit: WNBA

Once again, Griner and Diggins-Smith were the catalysts of the Mercury’s early offensive success in the third quarter, which contributed to their 56-45 lead after Kia Nurse drained a three from the top of the arc. Bill Laimbeer would turn to the bench and find a nice spark from Kelsey Plum, who instantly led Vegas on an 18-0 run with some help from her second-unit running mate Dearica Hamby. Skylar Diggins-Smith would score two free throws after a clear-path foul in the waning seconds of the quarter to stop the run, trimming the Aces’ lead to 63-58 after three.

Jackie Young resurfaced from a second and third-quarter hiatus to get the Aces off to a strong start offensively in the final frame. Phoenix would stay in striking distance, though, after awakening from a dreadful eight-point third quarter. Griner saw a middy drop, Shey Peddy knocked down a three, and Brianna Turner created some good looks.

The team effort on the offensive end was eventually good enough to give Phoenix an 80-76 lead with under two minutes to play. Vegas wasn’t done, however. Chelsea Gray scored on an offensive rebound putback, and A’ja Wilson hit a stepback elbow jumper to even the score at 80. Some free throws from both teams brought the score to 84 apiece before Cambage stopped Griner on the final possession of the game to force overtime.

For as great as the final quarter was, overtime was a letdown for the Aces. Brittney Griner opened the extra segment on a 6-0 run of her own, and then Diggins-Smith hit a three to make it nine unanswered points. Vegas would dig themselves into too deep of a hole to climb out of, and Phoenix walked away with a 99-90 win.

 

POSITIVES:

 

Turnovers – The pace of this game was super slow, and both teams played in the half-court. Las Vegas recorded just one turnover in the first half and five in the second. It was their cleanest game in recent memory, which ultimately gave them a chance to win at the end of the game.

 

 

NEGATIVES:

 

Free Throws – Vegas ended up missing nine free throws on the night, which is more than their season’s average. The misses certainly were crucial to the end result as the game went to overtime. The missed free throws had been piling up over previous games, and it finally bit them on Wednesday night. 

Defending –  All season long, the Aces have struggled to guard the floor-spacing big, and Wednesday night was no different. Griner picked and popped and set up shop in the mid-range for a lot of points. The drop coverage that the Aces deployed didn’t do anything to slow it down.

 

 

The Aces stay home to face the Minnesota Lynxon Friday, July 9th. Follow the action live on ESPN3 at 7:30 p.m., and remember to check back for the next recap.

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-Cole Huff– Franchise Sports Media

Follow Cole on Twitter @ColeHoops

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