Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau
Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 | 10:06 p.m.
Diana Taurasi dealt a serious blow to the Las Vegas Aces’ playoff push on Wednesday, as she scored 37 points to lead her Phoenix Mercury to a 104-93 win.
The Aces came into the day trailing the Dallas Wings by 1.5 games for the WNBA’s eighth and final playoff spot. After Taurasi was finished, Las Vegas had fallen to 12-14 on the season and a full 2.0 games behind.
Las Vegas trailed for most of the contest, and whenever the Aces managed to get within a single possession in the second half, Taurasi had an answer, whether it was a 3-pointer, a no-look assist or a drive into the lane to draw a foul. She finished 8-of-17 from the field and 17-of-18 from the free-throw line, with nine assists in 34 minutes.
With Taurasi shredding the Aces’ defense consistently, Phoenix shot 50.8 percent as a team and 11-of-26 from the 3-point line.
Las Vegas center A’ja Wilson said the Aces will have to turn the page on the loss and stay focused on their playoff goal.
“I didn’t think we had a very good showing,” Wilson said, “but we have to continue to control what we can control and bounce back.”
Wilson was named WNBA Rookie of the Month for the second time on Wednesday morning, and she carried that momentum on to the court, scoring 20 points in the first half to keep Las Vegas within striking distance. Wilson finished with 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting; the rest of the Aces shot just 22-of-63 from the field (34.9 percent).
Aces guard Kayla McBride struggled offensively coming off her All-Star appearance. She scored 18 points but connected on just 5-of-17 from the floor.
“I put the game on me, honestly,” McBride said, “because I feel like I didn’t come out ready, I wasn’t hitting shots, I wasn’t being the leader that my team needed me to be. We fell behind and we let Diana get going.”
Las Vegas trailed, 75-67, entering fourth quarter, but a quick 7-2 run got the Aces within three points with 8:48 remaining. McBride hit a transition 3 to pull Vegas within 84-82 with six minutes left, but that was as close as the Aces would get. Taurasi countered McBride’s shot with a 3 of her own, and after McBride missed in the lane, Taurasi drove and kicked to Yvonne Turner for another 3 to give Phoenix a 90-82 advantage.
Phoenix cruised to the finish line from there, and now the Aces find themselves 2.0 games out of the playoff picture with eight contests remaining on the schedule. The Aces’ next three games will be on the road.
Head coach Bill Laimbeer said the Aces’ intensity was lacking as early as Wednesday morning’s team shootaround, and that his players will have to fight if they want that playoff spot.
“Our players have to learn what big games mean,” he said. “This was a big game. We needed to get a home win to send us on the road.”