WNBA: Aces, Sparks meet up after posting big opening wins

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The defending champion Las Vegas Aces travel to face the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday for a Commissioner’s Cup matchup.

Both the Aces and Sparks cruised in their season-opening contests last week, with Las Vegas blasting host Seattle, 105-64 on Saturday. Los Angeles tipped off the season Friday against Phoenix in Brittney Griner’s first game back in the league after being detained in Russia for over 10 months.

The Sparks rolled in the emotionally charged contest 94-71 thanks to double-figure-scoring efforts from five players — including 14 for first-round draft pick Zia Cooke in her WNBA debut.

“Our favorite word as a team is connected. … Just having the ability to settle in and trust each other, trust our work, made today really special,” Chiney Ogwumike told ESPN in her postgame interview. “Zia saved the day. She saved the game. When we were really caught up in our feelings and our emotions, she came in and just played.”

Ogwumike scored 15 points in the win, while older sister Nneka Ogwumike set the pace with 17. Lexie Brown finished with 14 points and Karlie Samuelson added 13.

Cooke was part of South Carolina’s national championship team two seasons ago and Samuelson was a hardship contract signee after initially being cut from the Los Angeles roster.

“Every action and practice matters,” Samuelson told The Next Hoops. “The WNBA is such a hard place to make, so every moment I’m taking in and I’m not taking it for granted.”

The next opportunity comes in the form of Las Vegas, the 2022 champion.

The Aces demonstrated plenty of balance with six scorers in double figures in their opener.

Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young each scored 23 points to lead the way. A’ja Wilson had 13 points and 13 rebounds, Chelsea Gray finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Alysha Clark went 4-of-5 from the floor en route to 10 points.

“She’s great,” Young said of Clark in her postgame interview. “She’s been in this league for a long time, and she just does all the right things, makes all the right small plays and is at the right place at the right time. … She’s a leader for us.”

Leadership is a hot topic for Las Vegas through its first two games of the season. Coach Becky Hammon is serving a two-game suspension due to allegations of mistreatment against former Ace Dearica Hamby — now a member of the Sparks — before Hamby’s trade this offseason.

Tyler Marsh is filling in for Hammon during the suspension, overseeing a roster with well-established new additions like Clark and Candace Parker.

Parker, a two-time league MVP and seven-time All-WNBA honoree, had 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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