Aces on upswing heading into meeting with Liberty

The Las Vegas Aces are just 4-9, but they have a couple things going for them heading into Friday’s home game against the New York Liberty.

For one thing, they beat the Liberty recently, winning on New York’s home court 78-63 on June 13. That game marked the return of Bill Laimbeer, who is in his first season as the Aces coach after coaching the Liberty last season.

“They run a lot of the same stuff we did last year,” Laimbeer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week. “They’ve made a couple of adjustments, added a couple of things … We’re familiar with their stuff, and they’re familiar with our stuff.”

The other factor in the Aces favor is that they are coming off their best performance of the season – an 87-77 road victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday in which Las Vegas dominated the closing minutes of the game.

Rookie standout A’ja Wilson had 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Aces, who ended a two-game losing streak with the win.

The Aces have played nine of their 13 games on the road and will be glad to come home for Friday’s game. However, they are just 1-3 on their home court.

The other encouraging news for Las Vegas is that guard Moriah Jefferson, who hasn’t played in a WNBA game since last August 12 due to a knee injury, was cleared for practice for the first time Thursday. She is unlikely to play Friday, though.

The Liberty (3-6) got a much-needed win as well in their most recent game, beating the Atlanta Dream 79-72 at the Westchester County Center.

A win against the Aces would be their second in a row, matching their longest win streak of the season.

Liberty center Tina Charles is second in the league in scoring at 21.6 points per game, while Las Vegas’ Wilson is fourth at 20.8 per contest.

Charles said this week that Laimbeer helped her develop.

“He just always made sure for me that I would stay engaged in the game,” Charles said, according to the Review-Journal. “You really appreciate that … You want that line of communication.”

A key matchup Friday will be in the backcourt where Liberty point guard Bria Hartley and Aces’ Lindsay Allen will face off.

Hartley ranks ninth in the league averaging 4.3 assists, while Allen averages 4.0 assists per contest. Allen, who participated in the Liberty’s 2018 training camp, had seven assists when the teams met earlier this season.