Sparks get the better of Wilson and Aces

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Los Angeles Sparks pulled off a thrilling 96-92 win over the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces after starting the game down 14-0. For Los Angeles, it was their best and most complete win of the season, and they have now won consecutive games for the first time this year.

“I have been in this league a decade now, and I have watched some less mentally strong teams have that kind of start and maybe say it is just not gonna be our night and go through some motions and pick it up on another day,” said head coach Curt Miller. “We refused to do that, and for them to respond when that second unit came in sparked us, and it regained some momentum and gave us the confidence that we could play and have success against Vegas.”

Rickea Jackson was clutch down the stretch, scoring seven points in the game’s last four minutes to hold off the Aces’ late push. She was 7-11 from the field for 16 points, tying her career high. Jackson was the number four overall pick in the draft this past offseason and is already showing signs that she can develop into a lethal offensive player in the WNBA.

“We went to Rickea late, who made a couple of big baskets, but it was an entire team effort,” said Miller.

The Aces have been battling through some adversity and are without two of their premier players, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. They have not had the start to the season they would have hoped for at 5-4, and some of the frustration boiled over in this game, which resulted in four technical fouls.

“Sometimes when you get those bright lights all the time, and you are winning it, kinda covers up and masks a lot of things, but when that adversity hits, that is when you can really tell who is bought in versus who is not,” said A’ja Wilson.

A’ja Wilson is a two-time league MVP and has established herself as the most dominant player in the league. Against the Sparks, she led her team in points (31), rebounds (8), assists (5), blocks (6), and steals (2).

Wilson’s size and athleticism make her capable of doing anything her team needs on the court. She is not known as a three-point shooter but was 2-2 from beyond the arc. Her second three of the night cut the lead to two points with a minute and a half remaining on the clock.

“I don’t shoot many threes because it is hard to stop me from two, so I am not gonna let defenses off the hook settling for a three, but when the time is there, I gonna shoot it,” said Wilson.

She is also tough and incredibly efficient. She went 10-17 on Sunday and is shooting just over 50 percent on the year. Wilson was fouled and hit the ground really hard in the third quarter. She was down on the court for a minute, got up, stayed in the game, hit two free throws, and then forced a 24-second shot clock violation on the next Sparks possession.

“These games are the games that prep you for later on down the road,” said Wilson. “We are going to get everybody’s best shot every single night. For us, it is a playoff game because we are going to get everyone’s A-game.”

The outlook for the rest of the season is bright for these two teams.

The Aces roster makes up a third of the USA Olympic team, and they are currently without two of those four players. Once they return, Las Vegas has a great chance to become the second WNBA team to win three straight championships. The only other was the Houston Comets when they won the first four titles in league history.

The Sparks are a young team that only has room to improve as the season continues. Dearica Hamby is having a breakout season, putting herself in contention to be a first-time All-Star, and their two rookies, Rickea Jackson and Cameron Brink, have shown a lot of promise early on in their careers.

Top image caption: Cameron Brink (22) of the Los Angeles Sparks is surrounded by several Las Vegas Aces players in her team’s 96-92 upset win at on June 9, 2024. Photo credit: Carlos Jones/News4usonline

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