Mercury host Aces with four-game win streak in tow

The Phoenix Mercury enter Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Aces on a four-game winning streak with their execution and scoring at maximum potential.

The struggling Aces (1-6) travel to play the Mercury (6-3) suffering from a lack of consistency on the offensive end.

Las Vegas rookie forward A’ja Wilson had a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds in Friday’s 87-83 home loss to Atlanta, but she made only 6 of 18 shots from the field and was 1 of 8 in the second half.

In an attempt to improve his offensive execution, Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer inserted guard Kelsey Plum into the starting lineup for the first time Friday. Plum, a rookie who starred at Washington, is the NCAA career scoring record holder.

She struggled to get in the flow and went scoreless in 15 minutes.

The game at Phoenix begins a four-game, six-day road trip, which Laimbeer hopes will create a better bond between his players away from home.

“We’re trying to find a cohesive situation,” he said. “I’m pushing any button I can to get five players (to play together). … I keep saying we’re learning, but I don’t know how fast we’re learning.”

Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello has relaxed her defensive-minded tendencies by allowing her team more freedom on the offensive end.

That approach is paying dividends in the Mercury’s four-game winning streak. In a 96-79 home win over the Chicago Sky on Friday night, the Mercury led from start to finish. They are averaging 87.3 points over the last four games.

“We’ve got some pretty awesome players here,” Brondello said. “Let’s play to them. Put a little more focus on the offense and hope we can build the defense in that way.”

All five Mercury starters scored in double figures against Chicago, led by center Brittney Griner with 24 points. Griner also had a team-high eight rebounds.

“Lately we’ve just been having the big three (Griner, Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner) score, but Bri (January) is a fantastic 3-point shooter,” Brondello said. “It was great for her to see that ball go down. Sancho (Lyttle) is always solid. She had a lot of wide-open looks and made them.

“This is an experienced team, and when we needed to buckle down (defensively), we did. We fought over screens much harder than we did in that third quarter. Our rotations off the ball were where they needed to be. And they made a lot of shots. But when we need to play defense, we can.”