Aces look to show improvement against Storm

The Las Vegas Aces do not have many victories to show for it, but coach Bill Laimbeer insists his team is making “great progress.”

And others, including the most decorated player in WNBA history, are taking notice.

“Bill’s teams are always tough,” Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the Mercury beat the Aces 92-80 on Sunday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, a game that was in doubt until the final minutes. “They’re persistent. They got a bunch of kids that want to compete. Bill accelerates that process. He just does such a good job getting his teams to play hard and together and play to the last whistle.

“Working hard and being competitive, it’s a learned behavior. It’s not something that you just step on the court and have. It’s in you, like a little seed and you need a little watering and it gets bigger and bigger and you can see it with a lot of kids on that team.”

The Aces (3-9) will get to measure that progress Tuesday night when they travel to Seattle to face the Storm.

A’ja Wilson, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft, scored 21 points for Las Vegas and Kayla McBride added 20 against Phoenix.

“I’m learning them and they’re learning me,” Laimbeer said. “I’m not discouraged a bit. We’re going to get there. It’s just a matter of time. I told them to keep their heads up. Little things are hurting us. Missing too many layups. Missing too many free throws. Giving up offensive rebounds at the wrong time. Believe it or not, I’m seeing great progress.”

This will be the third and final meeting between the teams in the regular season. Seattle won both of the previous matchups: 105-98 on May 27 in the opening game at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and 101-74 on May 31 at KeyArena, when the Storm made a league-record 17 3-pointers.

The Storm (8-3) are coming off a 103-92 home victory Friday against Connecticut in a matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league.

Natasha Howard scored a career-high 25 points for the Storm and Breanna Stewart added 23 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

“This was a statement win for us,” said reserve guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who added 18 points, one short of her career high. “I think that we have been progressing every game, from the bench to our starters getting us going from the beginning. (It) was a big win for us.”