LAS VEGAS — Game 1 was ugly for the Sky from the moment the ball was tipped.
They earned their postseason berth, closing the regular season with a 6-2 record. But, in their 87-59 loss Wednesday night, the Sky looked like a team that had no business playing against the reigning champions in their pursuit of back-to-back titles.
“They took away a lot offensively,” Interim coach/general manager Emre Vatansever said. “Their defense was on point. They were aggressive. They were physical, and we had a hard time getting into our offense.”
After opening the game on a 6-0 run, the Aces closed the first quarter up 12, but their energy signaled what was to come. In front of a record-setting attendance of 12,927, the Aces opened up a 19-point lead midway through the second and led by as many as 32 in the final minutes.
The Aces controlled the game on the defensive end. They held the Sky to their lowest-scoring output of the season by preventing their backcourt trio from finding any rhythm.
Kahleah Copper finished with 15 points, Courtney Williams added nine points and 11 rebounds and Marina Mabrey was held to just seven points, shooting 3-for-11 from the field.
Copper and Mabrey went scoreless in the fourth quarter, while Williams had just one made field goal. As a team, the Sky shot 33.3% from the field and 22.7% from three and were outscored 44-28 in the paint.
“We got our ass beat, I’m not going to lie to you,” Williams said. “But we have another one. I mean, we have to stay confident.”
Confidence isn’t all the Sky needs to make things interesting in Game 2 on Sunday. They need more from their three-time All-Star, and she acknowledged as much post-game.
“They threw a lot of different things [at me,]” Copper said. “It was a lot. I also have to be disciplined, wait for screens, demand some screens and make plays for my teammates.”
Copper alone can’t force a Game 3 against the Aces.
To accomplish that, the Sky needs to come up with a response to the Aces freight train of an offense. Five Aces finished scoring in double figures, led by Chelsea Gray, who had a game-high 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
MVP candidate A’ja Wilson had a quiet night by typical standards, with just 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Jackie Young added 18 points and Kelsey Plum had 16 points. Sixth player-of-the-year candidate Alysha Clark added 10 points off the bench.
“When we watch this film, I don’t want to see any faces,” Copper said. “Because this is what happened out there, and we don’t want to come out and make the same mistakes.”