Mystics hope to ace test in Las Vegas

June 5, 2018

It's Washington vs. Las Vegas.

Not THAT Washington-Las Vegas matchup, sorry.

The Mystics, not the NHL's Capitals, face the Aces, not the Golden Knights, on Friday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center and you'll have to excuse Bill Laimbeer's home squad if they're a step slow.

The Aces played Thursday night in Seattle, where they suffered another loss, 101-74, and are 0-4 this season -- their first in Las Vegas.

The Mystics are 5-1 and last played Wednesday in Phoenix where they won a rugged game against the Mercury 103-95.

Mystics star Elena Delle Donne missed her second straight game because of an illness and her status for Friday's game is uncertain.

Washington's Kristi Toliver picked up the scoring load and recorded a game-high 30 points going 10-for-16 from the field, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

"I thought we competed hard for 40 minutes," Tolliver said. "Coming off a back to back, it's never easy but we didn't want to buy in to fatigue or make that excuse. I think from start to finish we just competed hard and remained composed throughout the adversities that took place."

The third quarter was key as Tolliver scored 12 points and the Mystics' long-range game was the difference.

"When you knock down a couple 3s, it changes the momentum of the game," Washington coach Mike Thibault said. "We got a couple stops in a row and got run out 6-0 in the start of the quarter, kind of put them on their heel a little bit. It probably got us to relax a little bit."

Las Vegas would be wise to guard against the Mystics' beyond the arc. Washington is shooting 42.1 percent on 3s and holding the opposition to 31.3 percent.

The Aces will have to find a way to slow down rookie Ariel Atkins, who scored a season-high 21 points starting for Delle Donne against the Mercury.

Laimbeer has his own super rookie in A'ja Wilson, the top pick in this year's draft. After scoring 21 points against the Storm, Wilson is averaging 19.5 points.

"She's learning," Laimbeer said of Wilson. "She hasn't yet realized how big, strong and fast the players are in this league (and) also that the teams will set the defense for her, especially when we don't have the shooters around. She's going to have to learn these things. She'll struggle from game-to-game in different aspects, but we keep talking to her about the little things you have to learn. ... All of the little things that she learns over the course of time will make her a better player."

Wilson appreciates Laimbeer's confidence in her.

"It means a lot. It really does. I do not think he understands how much of an impact he has already made on me," she said.

The teams met May 20, with the Mystics scoring the last four points of a 75-70 win. Delle Donne recorded 23 points and 11 boards.

Wilson scored 16 points and had eight boards, while Nia Coffey chipped in 14 points and Tamera Young contributed 13 for the Aces.