WNBA Playoffs Semifinals Team Preview: Las Vegas Aces

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Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby, ladies and gentlemen! That’s it. That’s pretty much my analysis of the Aces’ second-round victory against the Chicago Sky. The two combined for 40 points and 21 rebounds. Factor in the assists, blocks, and game changing steals, there’s a lot of the momentum bottled up within  those two players. By now, you’ve probably watched the “Hamby Heave” countless times. I’ll admit that I’m actually still in shock. As mentioned in my second round preview, I felt that the game would be a physical matchup and possibly contain some controversial calls. In this case, there were certainly a few to choose from. At the end of the day, the Aces advance and they now face *ominous music starts playing* the Washington Mystics.

Scouting the Washington Mystics

During their regular season series, the Aces won once in three attempts against the league’s top team. The losses have all been by over 20 points while that lone win, 85-81, came while MVP-frontrunner Elena Delle Donne was sidelined with a fractured nose. Since that game, the Mystics went on a tear through the league while only dropping two games the rest of the season.

The Mystics are a cohesive team that understands their identity. Having nine days since their last game could be a good thing for them. Even though possibly on a minutes restriction, Toliver is expected to return to the lineup in the nation’s capital after missing several games. Added practice along with rest to nurse nagging injuries will help any time. However, will momentum be on the Aces’ side?

Scouting Washington is no easy task. The Mystics are top-5, if not 1st overall, in nearly all of the league’s top statistical categories. With this game, you have the best offense going against the best defense. Of course the plan, as is with nearly every game, is to slow EDD.  However, you then run the risk of wide open shooters along the perimeter or athletic guards not afraid to attack the paint and draw the foul. I think the Aces stand a chance if they’re able to eliminate the use and efficiency of both LaToya Sanders and Emma Meesseman.

Keys for the Aces

Rebounding

For the Aces, it’s important to REBOUND. They’re the best in the league at securing another possession after missed shots. There will always be the size. Not taking into consideration possible foul trouble, the Aces may want to go big in an effort to get more boards. We’ll probably see heavy usage of the big lineup of Wilson-Cambage-Hamby for long stretches of the game. Having Cambage and Wilson anchoring the post while Hamby’s able to stretch could be huge, both figuratively and literally.

Guard play

After playing only four minutes in her playoff debut, I look to see more of Jackie Young. She presents a larger and stronger frame to potentially defend the size of Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers. She’s also the team’s leader in assists. I’d look to capitalize off that more against the Mystics and their nagging defense by finding her open teammate. Not known for her offensive game just yet, hitting the open shot when needed will be a welcomed addition.

For the previous game, I mentioned that Plum needed to keep scoring. She did just that and chipped in 15 points and 6 assists with Kayla McBride pouring in 16 points. Both were able to knock down some clutch shots at important moments for the Aces when their offense seemed to lag. Those moments will need to be plenty against the Mystics.

Three-point defense

The defense must not rest for the Aces. Washington made 316 shots from distance in the regular season — more than 60 ahead of the 2nd place team. Defending the perimeter along with the pick and roll should be focal points. I expect to see Hamby, Tamera Young and Kayla McBride handle a lot of the defensive responsibility against their threats from deep.

Both teams enjoy the open court, so expect to see much of that this entire series with quick guard play and tons of scoring. This may not be as physical as Chicago vs. Las Vegas. However, recent history has shown that the Aces and Mystics usually always experience some sort of hiccup (i.e. earthquakes, delays, travel issues, etc.) which could add more to the tale of these two teams.

It’ll be a fun one, and I have this going to a deciding game 5.  I’ll check back in to give my prediction at that time.

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