A'ja Wilson looks to continue her strong play Sunday when the Las Vegas Aces face the New York Liberty in search of their fourth straight win.
With center Liz Cambage opting out of the season, Wilson - the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft - was expected to become the focal point of Las Vegas' offense. The third-year pro has been aided by newcomer Angel McCoughtry's surprisingly fast start, and Wilson has found her groove.
She has averaged 21.7 points and 9.0 rebounds during the Aces' three-game winning streak and totaled 26 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double in that span as Las Vegas (4-2) held off Los Angeles 86-82 on Friday. Eight of her points came in a decisive 10-2 fourth-quarter burst, and Wilson put the Aces ahead for good with a jumper at the 5:17 mark.
"She's really perfected the midrange shot and is extending that another 2 or 3 feet," said coach Bill Laimbeer, who challenged Wilson after a scoreless third quarter, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "She's also learned how to create space for herself with a one-dribble step-back. She's added pieces to her game, and there's more to be had there, too."
McCoughtry added 24 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, and the five-time All-Star moved into 14th place on the WNBA's all-time scoring list with 5,564 points. She needs eight to move ahead of DeLisha Milton-Jones for 13th.
New York (1-5) finally got off the schneid and became the last WNBA team to record its first victory in the "wubble," upending defending champion Washington 74-66 on Friday. After back-to-back losses by a combined 55 points, the team held a meeting to clear the air, and the Liberty's three veterans took center stage as Amanda Zahui B., Kia Nurse, and Layshia Clarendon combined for 45 points.
"I'm really, really proud of how they responded to a very long, emotional meeting yesterday," first-year Liberty coach Walt Hopkins told ESPN after getting his first WNBA victory. "We had one of those everybody-get-it-out-on-the-table meetings. It's a credit to their focus and their resilience."
The Liberty have seven rookies on their roster, but their best one - No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu - remains sidelined with a third-degree ankle sprain. She went to New York earlier this week to see an ankle and foot specialist, and there is no timetable for her return.
Zahui B., who also pulled down 14 rebounds for her first double-double of the season, has averaged 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in her last three contests.
After losing the first game between the teams last year, the Aces won the other two by a combined 67 points. Aces guard Kayla McBride averaged 22.3 points in the three matchups while shooting 60.6 percent (20 for 33).