WNBA: Aces see need to raise level going into game at Sparks

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The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces have targets on their backs, and other teams are delivering dart-like blows.

The Aces aren’t displaying title-winning form early this season and have dropped two of their last three games as they arrive in Los Angeles for Sunday night’s contest against the Sparks.

Las Vegas (5-3) was severely outclassed by the visiting Seattle Storm on Friday night while falling 78-65.

The Aces shot 31.3 percent from the field and made just 7 of 26 from 3-point range in a showing that disturbed coach Becky Hammon.

“Our approach sucks,” Hammon said afterward. “… I can’t articulate how much teams want to beat us. We just have this satisfactory, ‘show up and think we’re going to (expletive) win the game’ approach.”

Star guard Kelsey Plum said the Aces need to pick up their level.

“We’re gonna get everyone’s best shot,” Plum said. “Every game that we play is a measuring-stick game for the other team, and so you know what? That’s on us.”

Las Vegas continues to play without star point guard Chelsea Gray (foot), while standout shooting guard Jackie Young struggled through a forgettable performance, scoring just three points on 1-of-12 shooting against Seattle.

Two-time MVP A’ja Wilson continues to star and had 29 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. She has scored at least 20 points in 13 straight regular-season games, tying Diana Taurasi’s WNBA record.

Wilson leads the league in scoring (28 points per game) and rebounds (12.3).

Los Angeles (3-7) is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

The Sparks notched an 81-72 home victory over the Dallas Wings on Friday. Dearica Hamby again led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

In the fourth quarter, Los Angeles outscored Dallas 20-9 and held the Wings to 2 of 13 from the field.

“In games we could’ve won, we folded in the second halves and fourth quarters,” Hamby said afterward. “The steadiness and the composure we had at the end of this game was a moment of growth for us.”

Lexie Brown also stood out for the Sparks with 16 points and six assists off the bench. Brown had scored six or fewer points in five of the previous six games.

“In the last few games, I was allowing the other team’s defense to dictate my offense,” said Brown, who made four 3-pointers against Dallas. “I got more aggressive hunting for my shot, and my teammates set me up great.”

In the teams’ first meeting on May 18, host Las Vegas prevailed 89-82 behind 22 points apiece from Wilson and Young. Hamby, a former Las Vegas player, led the Sparks with 29 points.

This contest is a Commissioner’s Cup game. The Aces are 1-1 and Los Angeles is 1-2 in such games.

–Field Level Media

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