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Dream hope for second road win on visit to streaking Aces

Sportsnaut
Sep 29, 2020; Bradenton, Florida, USA; A game ball waits on a sanitation cart during game 5 of the WNBA semifinals between the Connecticut Suns and the Las Vegas Aces at IMG Academy. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Dream will head into the second leg of a four-game road swing on Tuesday when they face the streaking Las Vegas Aces.

Three Aces scored at least 20 points — Kelsey Plum with 22, Chelsea Gray with 21 and nine assists, and A’ja Wilson with 20 — as Las Vegas downed Connecticut on Sunday, 91-83. The win marked the Aces’ third straight.

“We were getting rolls, we were getting shots and knocking them down,” Gray said of the Las Vegas offense in her postgame press conference. “It’s easier to pick apart (a defense) when we’re in our spots.”

Las Vegas (18-7) is averaging 102 points per game over the three victories. Its league-leading season average of 91.3 points per game is more than five points higher than the closest team — and almost 14 more per contest than Atlanta, which ranks last in the league at 77.5.

The Dream (11-14) twice failed to score at least 70 points, and never more than 75, over a three-game skid preceding Sunday’s outing in Phoenix. But Atlanta opened its road trek by defeating the Mercury 85-75 in a game that Dream coach Tanisha Wright said was “good for our morale.”

Nia Coffey (knee), Monique Billings (ankle) and season-long leading scorer Rhyne Howard (shoulder) all missed Sunday’s game.

“People took advantage of those opportunities” that absences from the lineup presented, Wright said in the postgame press conference. “Particularly Naz (Hillmon).”

In her first career start, the rookie Hillmon finished with six points, seven rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Her performance in Phoenix followed career bests of 13 points and 11 rebounds Friday against Connecticut.

Hillmon’s emergence gives Atlanta a boost on the interior, but the Dream will need to improve their defensive performance on the perimeter to avoid a repeat of their last encounter with the Aces.

On May 13, Las Vegas shot a torrid 16-of-35 from 3-point range in a 96-73 rout of host Atlanta. Although tied with Chicago for the league’s best 3-point shooting percentage on the season at 36.4, the Aces were more than nine percentage points better than that in the previous meeting.

–Field Level Media