Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau
Friday, June 14, 2019 | 10:30 p.m.
The opening weeks of the season haven’t gone as expected for Las Vegas, but on Friday the Aces looked very much like the super team that was promised as they routed the New York Liberty, 100-65.
The win improved the Aces, the preseason favorite to win the WNBA title, to 3-3 on the year.
Center Liz Cambage made her mark early, scoring seven points to power Las Vegas to a 12-2 lead just minutes into the first quarter. A 3-pointer from Kelsey Plum pushed the lead to 20-8 later in the period, and a Cambage layup capped an 8-0 run to make it 26-8.
Cambage finished with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting in just 16 minutes.
“I thought Liz set the tone for us the first few minutes of the game,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “[She] just said, ‘Give me the ball, I’m putting it in the basket, no one can guard me.’ It snowballed from there.”
With NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook sitting together in courtside seats, the Aces put on a show worthy of basketball royalty. Plum took the reins for the rest of the half, knocking down three 3-pointers to push the Aces' lead over 30 points in the second quarter.
Plum then capped a 19-point first half by snaking through the New York defense for a buzzer-beating layup to give the Aces a 66-31 advantage at the break.
It was a promising showing for the third-year point guard, who said she benefitted from a mid-week meeting with Laimbeer regarding her role in the offense.
“Bill is very clear-cut about what he wants, and for me I think that I just needed some clarity and he gave it to me,” Plum said. “He showed me some things on film that I needed to do and I tried to go out there and do tonight, and I’m just grateful that he stuck with me.”
Plum didn’t score in the second half but finished with a plus/minus rating of +35, the best mark on the team.
“I thought Kelsey, this is obviously her best game I’ve seen her play,” Laimbeer said. “Her and I had a nice chat the other day about how much we need her and how much I want her to be successful and to be more aggressive offensively in attacking the paint and not worrying about anything. And tonight she showed what she’s capable of doing.”
After shooting 24-of-35 from the field (68.6 percent) in the first half and out-rebounding New York, 24-9, the Aces eased off in the second half. The nucleus of Cambage, Plum, A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride joined their NBA counterparts as spectators for the fourth quarter as the Aces’ reserves closed out the final frame.
Wilson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes, while McBride totaled 18 points in 27 minutes.