The Aces are still the masters of their own fate.
If coach Becky Hammon’s team wins its final two games — both against the last-place Phoenix Mercury — the Aces get home-court advantage through the playoffs, despite the late-season surge by the New York Liberty.
The Aces’ 103-77 win Saturday against the Seattle Storm was another step in the right direction.
“Everything we want to accomplish is right in front of us,” Hammon said before the game. “It’s up to us to go and grab it.”
A fourth-quarter run propelled the Aces past the Storm in front of 9,319 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena. It’s the 10th time Hammon’s team has broken the 100-point threshold this season.
Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Aces (32-6). All-Star guard Chelsea Gray added 14 points and nine assists. All-Star Jackie Young finished the game with 22 points, while reserve wing Alysha Clark scored 16 off the bench.
All-Star guard Jewell Loyd scored 28 points to lead the Storm (11-26).
The Aces are off for the next six days before heading on the road to play the Mercury at 7 p.m. Friday.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Points in the paint
The Aces started the game quiet from 3, shooting just 2 of 11 — 18.2 percent — from distance in the first half. However, they entered halftime leading 49-43 because of their interior scoring.
Led by Wilson, who had 21 points before the break, the Aces scored 26 in the paint during the first half. For context, it took them the entire game to score 26 points in the paint during their 84-75 win against the Washington Mystics on Thursday.
Teams like the Mystics and Liberty have emphasized protecting the paint against the Aces this season. Young said using cuts to attack the rim and keep the offense from becoming stagnant will be important to the Aces down the stretch.
2. Loyd starts hot
The WNBA’s leading scorer entering Saturday, Loyd has been a mixed bag against the Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena. She averages around 17 points per game on the Aces’ home court, but if you take out her 38-point outing from 2022, Loyd only averaged 13.5 points per game in Las Vegas entering Saturday.
However, Loyd was dynamic in the first half, scoring 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go with five rebounds, an assist and two 3s.
3. Defensive inconsistency
Before Saturday’s game, reserve guard Sydney Colson said during the 2022 championship season, the Aces had defensive consistency. They closed the season on a four-game winning streak, beating contenders like the Storm and Candace Parker’s Chicago Sky as their defense jelled at the right time.
The Aces’ defense hasn’t found consistent rhythm with just two games remaining this season. Seattle shot 39.7 percent from the field but 40.9 percent from 3.