Becky Hammond brought winning culture to the Las Vegas Aces
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The All-Star break came at just the right time for the Las Vegas Aces and since the resumption of play they have been on a roll.
Las Vegas has won three straight — all on the road — averaging 102 points per game in those wins.
“We have so many weapons on offense,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who is having the best season of his career, averaging 20.3 points. It is the second best in the league.
The Aces (18-7) have five starters scoring in double digits and are averaging a league-high 91.3 points per game. Chelsea Gray credits coach Becky Hammon with simplifying their attacking and defensive systems at both ends of the pitch as one of the reasons for the team’s success.
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Las Vegas won 13 of its first 15 games before stumbling before the All-Star break with five losses in seven games.
Now the Aces win again.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy. If being awesome was easy, everyone would be doing it,” Hammon said. “You have to encounter adversity. There should be some misfires. We went out like a rocket and then we encountered some tough times.
“Adversity will benefit us more than the record of wins and losses on the road.”
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They have three games at home before embarking on a six-game road trip that includes the Commissioners Cup title game in Chicago next Tuesday.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Chicago (19-6): The Sky continue to win, with four straight wins and nine of 10. Chicago missed guard Courtney Vandersloot for concussion protocol last game, but hopes to see her back soon.
2. Las Vegas (18-7): Riquna Williams has been providing solid minutes off the bench recently, averaging 7.2 points this season to give the Aces a spark.
3. Seattle (17-8): The Storm have won four straight and will be tested this week in Chicago and Phoenix.
4. Connecticut (16-9): The Sun was playing well after the All-Star break, then Jonquel Jones had to miss games because of COVID protocols. They hope the reigning MVP returns soon.
5. Washington (16-11): Elena Delle Donne has been the backbone of the Mystics’ run lately. The 6-foot-5 former league MVP was able to play more and rest less. Washington only played one game this week before playing four games in six days.
6. Atlanta (11-14): A big road win in Phoenix without All-Star rookie Rhyne Howard is a dream come true. Howard has been hampered by a shoulder injury and they hope to get it back soon. Atlanta already has its most win tally since 2018.
7. Dallas (11-14): The Wings are looking to rebound after losing two of their last three games. The Teaira McCowan Center provided a huge lift for the Wings within minutes.
8. Minnesota (10-17): The Lynx have back-to-back home games against the Sun that will be critical to their chances of keeping their 11-year streak going to bring the playoffs to life.
9 (tie). Los Angeles (10-14): After a tough time on the road to start the season, Los Angeles played from the comfort of home for most of July. The Sparks haven’t been able to take advantage of that so far, going 2-3 in their seven-game home stint. The return of the Liz Cambage Center of COVID Protocols will help.
9 (tie). New York (9-15): The Liberty gave up 215 points in two games in Las Vegas and if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs, New York will need to clean up their defense — which sits near the bottom of the league . The Liberty are giving up 84.7 points per game on average.
11. Phoenix (11-16): The Mercurys haven’t been able to establish consistency on either side of the field this season. Skylar Diggins-Smith is having another great year in satisfying fashion and Diana Taurasi has been playing well lately. The Mercury didn’t have many other productions on the offensive side.
12. Indiana (5-22): Nine straight losses have the Fever turning to the coin toss and hopefully earn the No. 1 pick for the first time in franchise history.
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player of the week
Washington’s Elena Delle Donne was voted AP Player of the Week. She averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 assists to help the Mystics win two of their three games. Kahleah Copper from Chicago, Breanna Stewart from Seattle, Kelsey Plum from Las Vegas and Jonquel Jones from Connecticut also received votes.
The WNBA All-Stars all switched to uniforms with Brittney Griner’s name and number on them for the second half of the game. Griner held up a photo showing the players honoring her when she was in court last week during her drug possession trial.
Game of the week:
Seattle at Phoenix on Friday. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will meet for the last time in the regular season after spending the past two decades tied together since their time at UConn and on the U.S. national team. The game will also serve as a return to Phoenix for Tina Charles, who left the Mercury last month.