Sky, Aces each going for 7th win

The Aces have grown by leaps and bounds in their first year in Las Vegas since moving from San Antonio.

In their final season in San Antonio, the then-Stars won only eight times. The 6-12 Aces can take a step closer to equaling that mark on Thursday when they welcome the Chicago Sky to the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The game marks the second head-to-head battle between two of the league’s top rookies — Las Vegas’s No. 1 pick, A’ja Wilson, and No. 3 pick Diamond DeShields of Chicago.

Wilson is averaging 20.1 points and 8.7 rebounds while DeShields is averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds.

The Sky (6-11) are coming off a second straight defeat, losing to Dallas 108-85 on Tuesday. They are just 2-6 on the road but already own a win over the Aces, a 95-90 decision back on June 3. The Aces squandered a 15-point lead and were torched by DeShields, who led a balanced attack by scoring 25 points.

Just another lesson learned by Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer’s young squad.

“We just kind of relaxed too much. They picked up the pace and we weren’t able to recover our intensity,” Laimbeer said.

The loss dropped the Aces to 1-5 at the time, but since then they’ve learned a lot about what it takes to win — and lose. Look no further than their past two games, a 16-point win over Los Angeles on Friday at home, followed by a 16-point loss on the road to the Sparks on Sunday.

“I don’t know why we weren’t ready,” Laimbeer said. “I warned them, but we kind of fell apart. We are a young team. We are going to learn from experience, hopefully. We just didn’t handle the pressure, and it’s a poise issue.”

Wilson was saddled with foul trouble and held to a season-low 10 points.

“The things I know I can control are my energy and my mentality coming into the game,” Wilson said. “I think the biggest thing that I learned was I can’t let it frustrate me — don’t let it control me. That’s what they want.”

The Sky start play Thursday as arguably the league’s worst defensive team. They gave up 108 points — the second most this season in WNBA, surpassed only by the 110 they surrendered against Connecticut on June 1. Chicago allows a league-high 89.3 points per game, nearly four points more than Las Vegas, which yields the second highest.

Allie Quigley took a pragmatic approach to their defensives struggles, saying, “I think we just have to watch the film and be a better defensive team. Our offense isn’t the problem, it is the defense. We have to learn from this, but we have another game coming up. A loss by 30 or a loss by one, a loss is a loss.”

Quigley didn’t play in the Sky’s win earlier this season against the Aces. She scored 18 in Tuesday’s loss and leads the Sky at 17.1 points per game.

The Aces didn’t have an answer for Cheyenne Parker in that first game. Parker recorded career high in points (20) and rebounds (13). For the season, she averages 10.5 points and a team-leading 6.6 rebounds.

Despite their defensive struggles, Sky head coach Amber Stocks said her team has “great togetherness.”

“When there was a breakdown on one aspect of the game we were able to pick each other up,” Stocks said. “We have each other’s back. They covered each other’s blind spots. Unfortunately, this one got away from us.”