Aces fall to Sparls

Ryan Sun / Associated Press

Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson, second from right, shoots against, from left, Los Angeles Sparks guard Lexie Brown, forward Cameron Brink, and center Li Yueru during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Los Angeles.

Updated Sunday, June 9, 2024 | 8:40 p.m.

The Las Vegas Aces might still be the best team in the WNBA, but the two-time defending league champions certainly aren’t playing up to the billing — especially without Jackie Young in the lineup.

The Aces on Sunday were defeated for the second straight game, falling 96-92 at the Los Angeles Sparks. Las Vegas is now 5-4 on the season.

“We just have to continue to play the right way. It’s the next woman up,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said on being without Young. “It is what it is. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us…There’s no sense in feeling sorry for ourselves.” 

Las Vegas hadn’t lost back-to-back games since Aug. 28, 2023, and certainly didn’t appear to be in danger of falling to the Sparks in the first quarter as it scored 14 unanswered points to open the game.

A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 31 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. She also surpassed 4,000 career points. 

“I love that we didn’t fold tonight,” Wilson said. “I feel like we could sit up and be like, ‘we don’t have Jackie [Young] we don’t have Chelsea [Gray],’ but not us. We’re going to take this to the head and we’re going to go after it every single night.” 

Kelsey Plum followed with 24 points. Kate Martin scored a career-best 13 points in starting her first WNBA game in place of Young, who was ruled out with an illness, the team said. 

Tiffany Hayes netted 17 points off the bench, but the Aces’ reserves were outscored 40-17.

“I love what Tiffany [Hayes] brings to us in the locker room and on the court,” Wilson said. “She’s been here before, she’s played against the Sparks, she knows us and she knows all these different rosters. We didn’t have to teach her that personnel when she got here.” 

The Aces surrendered 31 points in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 10 points before rallying to tie the game in the fourth quarter. 

But Rae Burrell, a graduate of Liberty High School in Henderson, buried a pivotal 3-pointer to give Los Angeles the lead for good. Former Aces guard Dearica Hamby had a team-high 18 points for Los Angeles.

Tensions also flared in the game as Wilson was assessed a technical foul and Hammon was given two. Hammon said she was given the second technical because she stepped over half court. 

The setback dropped the Aces down to fifth place in the Western Conference Commissioner’s Cup standings. They return home at 7 p.m. Tuesday to face the Minnesota Lynx.

“We’re in a lull right now and it doesn’t feel great, but we have to continue to stick together,” Wilson said. “If our locker room goes in shambles, then we have a bigger problem than just stat sheets and scoreboards. When it comes to my leadership, I tried to be as positive and uplifting as I can.

“We hear enough of the noise and negativity. We don’t need that in our locker room.” 

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