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The Las Vegas Aces, the reigning WNBAchampions, took a tumble Saturday night, marking their sixth loss of 2024 – matching their entire loss count from last season. The New York Libertyemerged victorious with a 90-82 win in a high-octane rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals before a star-studded crowd, including none other than LeBron James.

After the game, emotions ran high as A’ja Wilson, the Aces’ shining star, opened up about the team’s struggles. “It’s hard. I love my teammates so much,” Wilson said, visibly emotional. “People say I’m the best player in the world. That’s great. But I want to be the best person. I want to be the best teammate, because that’s how I get the best out of my team.”

Wilson, leading the WNBA in scoring and rebounding with averages of 28.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, had a solid performance with 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. However, it was Jonquel Jones who stole the show for the Liberty, racking up a career-high 34 points and eight rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu contributed 15 points and 12 assists, while Breanna Stewart added 14 points and 12 rebounds, propelling the Liberty to a 12-2 record.

Jones’ impressive display, including a stellar 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, was a testament to her versatility. “That’s the main thing, keeping the defense honest,” Jones said. “Understanding there are different levels I can attack the game from. That was my mindset: Just playing and having fun.

The Liberty, riding an eight-game winning streak, now trail only the Connecticut Sun (12-1) in the standings. Despite the absence of point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who missed her fourth game for personal reasons, the Liberty’s chemistry was undeniable. “That’s the beautiful thing about chemistry,” Jones noted. “When you start to get to that level, it really does feel seamless.”

Aces face internal struggles amid Chelsea Gray’s absence

Meanwhile, the Aces are grappling with more than just their losses. With point guard Chelsea Gray still sidelined following a foot injury in the Finals, Coach Becky Hammon emphasized that the team’s issues extend beyond Gray’s absence. “When you see her, you see her. She’s getting close,” Hammon said. “We’re trying to get ourselves right before she comes back. Because the stuff that I think are some of our problems, she can’t fix. It’s internal, it’s individuals. So let’s get our house in order.

Hammon’s frustration was palpable as she criticized the team’s defensive efforts. “Our defense has been so bad, we’ve been forced to play a half-court offense. Which is tough without a true point guard. You’ve got to match [other teams’] energy and emotion and desire to beat you. I’ve not been pleased with [our defense]. Defense is 95% effort and trying hard.

Wilson echoed the sentiment, acknowledging the lack of consistency. “Everybody can be good here and there,” she said. “But who can be great, every single game, every possession? That’s what I’m striving for. I promise you, I’m not gonna back down. It starts with me and it’s going to always be with me, because I have 11 other women in that locker room that I need to pull greatness out of.”

As Wilson fights back tears, she remains determined. “I want them to be great. Not just for rings and banners, but because I know the potential that we have in our locker room. You’re going to still see me smiling and dancing, because I never want anyone to see us break. Obviously, I’m crying now, but it’s a part of it. I’m not gonna sit up here and act like it’s roses. It’s hard, but I’m not gonna back down ever.

Watch the full postgame interview of the Las Vegas Aces here:

The Aces might be down, but with Wilson’s relentless drive and Hammon’s tough love, don’t count them out just yet. The battle for the top is just heating up, and you can bet the Aces will be back with a vengeance.


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