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Dallas Wings fall to Las Vegas Aces, 104-91

“They were more ready to play than us. We have to match the intensity.”

Dallas Wings v Las Vegas Aces
A’ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces celebrates during the game against the Dallas Wings on July 30, 2023 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

In a game where the Dallas Wings never led nor tied, the Las Vegas Aces took control from the first whistle with a commanding 13-4 run and maintained their momentum until the end, ultimately winning, 104-91, against the Dallas Wings. The Wings fall to 1-2 on the season when facing the Las Vegas Aces.

“We just needed better execution,” said Wings head coach Latricia Trammell after the game. “Following the game plan, that first quarter hurt us, and against a good team you can’t let them get that much momentum. It’s usually our big three but this time it was theirs.”

“They were more ready to play than us. We have to match the intensity,” said Wings forward Satou Sabally.

More than halfway through the season, this shouldn’t be an issue. Since the preseason, players and coaches alike have preached playing a full 40 minutes with ultimate effort. More often than not, the Wings as a unit has struggled to uphold this.

Too often this season Wings players have made it a mission to air their grievances with officials, giving the opponent the numbers in transition. This trend reared its head yet again Sunday night.

If there’s another thing teams can’t do facing Las Vegas and expect to have a fighting chance, it's taking ill-advised mid-range jumpers that give Chelsea Gray or Kelsey Plum the opportunity to look like NFL All-Pro quarterbacks in transition. At the half, Dallas was 13-for-32 (40.6%) on two-pointers, giving the Aces ample time to get back on offense due to long rebounds as an advantage.

This is what dominance looks like. Mistakes that took place Sunday evening at Michelob Ultra Arena can’t happen against an all-time great offense that feeds off its own defense.

Aces and paces

This season has made it clear that no team in the league can defeat the Aces when trying to match their high-tempo style of play. Despite Las Vegas and Dallas ranking second and third in pace respectively, there’s a clear distinction in how both teams operate, and there isn’t anything wrong with this.

What is a problem, however, is failing to establish a consistent presence in the paint and attempting to replicate their style of play with a poor shot diet while ranking last in three-point percentage. Keep in mind this is the same roster that Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb said he wanted to see run a five-out offense. Currently, Dallas has one player shooting league average or better from three-point range.

That was the story of the first half as Dallas went to the locker room at the half shooting 38% from the field and 30% from behind the arc.

The level of play in the first half paled in comparison to the second as Dallas outscored Las Vegas 31-21 in the third quarter, the only quarter the Wings won Sunday night. A 15-0 run at the end of the third going into the final frame brought Dallas within single digits for the first time since the five-minute mark in the first quarter.

“I think we settled in,” said Trammell about the second-half push. “We talked about that at halftime [about] sticking together, continuing to be positive with one another, but we started rebounding. Then, we start pushing the pace in transition and got out and ran and Arike started that. Getting those tunnel drives and little dishes, she struggled to start, but she found a way to impact the game and that’s what great players do.”

In the first half, Aces guard Jackie Young defended Arike Ogunbowale exclusively, holding her to two points on 1-6 shooting. In the second half, she came alive, scoring 12 points and collecting four steals. Still, it wasn't enough as A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, and Chelsea Gray combined for 36 of their team’s 46 second-half points, ultimately putting Dallas away once and for all.

Frontcourt fissures

In the loss, star center Teaira McCowan was simply unstoppable. She dropped a season-high 25 points on a superb 78.6 percent from the field. Of her 14 rebounds, eight came via the offensive glass, giving way to a 24-7 advantage in second-chance points for Dallas.

“I think we’re the best when we’re playing inside-out,” said Trammell. “ So, I think she did a fantastic job, and she shouldn’t lay her head down because she did what she was supposed to do.”

Dallas is a team built from the inside out, but given the way the team operates more times than not, you wouldn’t know it.

After the win over the Mystics, McCowan was asked how she’s elevated her game. She replied simply saying that her teammates are passing her the ball. That is a problem.

There aren’t many if any, post players like McCowan in the WNBA. Requiring an instant double team because it's either a quick two or a trip to the line in single coverage, wouldn’t she be a main priority of the offense if the team played inside-out consistently?

Her attempts per game doesn't demonstrate this as McCowan is currently fourth on the team at 9.5. She’s shooting 73 percent at the rim and nearly 47 percent from three to 10 feet. She has a beautiful fade away in this space and at 6’7, it's practically impossible to inhibit. It would be nice to see this utilized more often.

In her first 13 games this season, center Kalani Brown averaged nearly eight points and seven rebounds in 20.7 minutes of play. In her last five games, she’s been limited to an average of 8.8 minutes. Her reduction in playing time comes at the cost of featuring Awak Kuier.

While her defense has been phenomenal, including a career-high 12 points in the win over the Washington Mystics, Kuier’s level of play isn’t consistent enough nor does it justify the drastic change in playing time for Brown. Since she’s on her second hardship signing with Dallas, Brown will be released upon the arrival of Diamond DeShields or Lou Lopez Senechal should either return in 2023. With reliable post-play coming at a premium this season, Brown will have several suitors offering consistent playing time.

If the Wings are aiming for a long playoff run, these issues must be resolved sooner rather than later.