Minus suspended coach Becky Hammon, Aces rout Storm to open title defence
Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum both scored 23 points, and the Las Vegas Aces opened defence of their WNBA championship with a 105-64 road win over the Seattle Storm on Saturday.
The rematch of last year’s WNBA semifinal series won by the Aces in four games on their way to the title featured several changes and absences from that playoff series.
Most notable, Las Vegas was without head coach Becky Hammon following her two-game suspension by the league earlier this week following an investigation into former Aces player Dearica Hamby saying she had been bullied and manipulated for being pregnant.
Hammon denied that Hamby was bullied for being pregnant, saying any ill feelings between the two came from Hamby being traded.
But the Aces didn’t miss a beat without their head coach on the sideline. Acting head coach Tyler Marsh just had to decide which combinations of the Aces star-studded roster to call upon, all under the watchful and approving eye of owner Mark Davis looking on from his baseline seat.
Six Aces players finished in double figures. A’ja Wilson had 13 points and 13 rebounds, Chelsea Gray scored 14 points and Alysha Clark added 10 off the bench.
Then there was two-time MVP Candace Parker. In her debut with the Aces, Parker added 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks. It was the trade of Hamby to the Los Angeles Sparks that clear salary cap room for the Aces to add Parker and create a roster that along with New York are the overwhelming favourites to win the league title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
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Jewell Loyd led Seattle with 22 points as the Storm began what’s expected to be a rebuild season in the next chapter for the franchise. For the first time since 2002, Sue Bird was no longer part of Seattle’s roster to start the season following her retirement at the end of last season, although she was sitting courtside for Saturday’s game.
Seattle also lost two-time league MVP Breanna Stewart after she departed for New York during free agency and starting wing Gabby Williams was still in Europe, although the Storm are hopeful the restricted free agent will rejoin the Storm soon.
That left Loyd as the only core piece from last season still on the court as a contributor. She struggled badly early, missing her first eight shots and struggled to get clean looks anytime Plum had the defensive assignment. Loyd finished 7 of 25 shooting.
No other Seattle player scored more than the eight points from rookie Jordan Horston.
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Wings top Dream in season opener
Arike Ogunbowale scored 20 of her 27 points as Dallas built a 17-point halftime lead and the Wings beat the visiting Atlanta Dream 85-78 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Satou Sabally added 25 points and Natasha Howard had 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks for Dallas. Howard, a three-time WNBA champion and the league’s 2019 defensive player of the year, was acquired in a trade in January.
Ogunbowale scored 12 points — including the final 10 — in a 19-0 run that made it 33-18 when she hit a 3-pointer to cap the spurt with about six minutes left in the first half.
Allisha Gray converted a three-point play that trimmed Atlanta’s deficit to 81-78 with 1:04 to play — the closest the Dream had been since the first quarter — but Veronica Burton and Sabally each made two free throws from there to cap the scoring.
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Rhyne Howard had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Dream, but made just 8 of 24 from the field. Cheyenne Parker added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Gray — acquired from the Wings via trade in January — had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Latricia Trammell won her first game as a WNBA head coach. Trammell, who spent the last four seasons as an assistant with the Los Angeles Sparks, replaced Vickie Johnson in November. Johnson was not retained as Dallas’s coach despite leading the team to its first .500 season (18-18) since moving to Dallas in 2016 and leading the franchise to a playoff-game win for the first time since 2009, when they were still known as the Detroit Shock — two relocations ago.
Diamond DeShields, acquired by the Wings from Phoenix via a four-team trade in Febraury, did not play. The No. 3 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, DeShields played about 20 minutes in the Wings’ preseason opener, but has not appeared in a game since. The team announced Wednesday that the 28-year-old guard, who won the 2021 WNBA title with the Chicago Sky, would miss “extended time” due to a knee injury.
Atlanta’s Danielle Robinson left the game with about eight minutes left in the first half and Dallas’ Teaira McCowan left early in the third quarter, due to left knee injuries and did not return.