LAS VEGAS — It was a different game but the same old story between the Sky and the Aces on Thursday night. Like in their three previous matchups this season, the Sky found themselves on their heels.
With the No. 1 playoff seed on the line, the Sky floundered, falling to the Aces 89-78 and dropping to second in the WNBA standings.
Sky general manager/coach James Wade had little to say afterward: “It wasn’t good enough to win.”
The Sky (25-10) emphasized playing aggressive defense in the first five minutes of the game, but they couldn’t stay within five points of the Aces early. They trailed by 11 after the first quarter and 14 at halftime. The Sky shot 35.3% from the field and 16.7% from deep in the first half.
“We talked a lot about defense because we know they’re very aggressive in the beginning [of games],” Emma Meesseman said. “I felt like we kind of lost our aggressiveness on offense.”
In the third quarter, they cut the Aces' lead to six by establishing their inside game. Kahleah Copper led all scorers, tying her season high with 28 points. She had 16 in the third quarter alone. The Sky outscored the Aces 42-32 in the paint.
Candace Parker had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Meesseman 14 points and seven rebounds. Ultimately, the Sky needed more production from the rest of the team.
They finished the game shooting 46.2% from the field but went 3-for-21 from deep. The Aces’ bench outscored the Sky’s 15-11. Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley were held to a combined 10 points.
“We can’t have just Kah doing it,” Meesseman said. “Everybody has to step up a little bit more. She can’t have all that scoring load on her.”
While Copper was leading her team’s comeback, Aces guard Jackie Young was helping her team maintain its lead, matching Copper’s 16 third-quarter points. Young finished with 22 points, five rebounds and two assists. Kelsey Plum led the Aces with 25 points, 18 of which came in the first half.
The Aces were without Dearica Hamby, who suffered a bruised right knee Tuesday against the Atlanta Dream and will miss up to four weeks.
The head-to-head tiebreaker gives the Aces (25-10) the No. 1 playoff seed entering each team’s final game of the regular season. The Sky could retake it with a win Sunday against the Phoenix Mercury and an Aces loss to the Seattle Storm.
“This isn’t rock bottom,” Copper said. “We’re No. 2 right now. We still have the opportunity to finish first. It’s on to the next.”
Li Yueru didn’t travel with the Sky so she could complete work for her visa in preparation for the FIBA World Cup.