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Sparks lose to A’ja Wilson, Aces

LOS ANGELES – Turns out, Becky Hammon is a darn good head coach.

“I’m having a blast,” said Hammon, the former WNBA star and longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant who now is the Las Vegas’ Aces’ first-year head coach. “I’m having a blast – and my girls all like each other too. So that makes my life really easy.”

She had to work Saturday, steering her team to a 89-72 victory, its 11th in 13 games, rather than spend the evening in Knoxville, Tennessee, into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday as part of a class that also included former Sparks star DeLisha Milton-Jones.

The Aces’ early season steamroll continued Saturday before a season-high 8,200 fans Saturday at Arena.

The crowd included 70-some there to support Aces’ assistant Natalie Nakase, the former UCLA star and longtime Clippers assistant coach. All but six of those folks were paying customers, including Clippers wing Terance Mann, who had seats beside the Aces bench.

They watched Nakase’s team stymie the Sparks in just about every facet during Fred Williams debut as interim head coach following Derek Fisher’s departure earlier this week.

Led by A’ja Wilson’s season-high 35 points and 10 rebounds, Hammon’s team didn’t deviate from the script. After they came in beating teams by an average of 9.9 points per game, they beat the Sparks by 17.

Facing Las Vegas the first time out was a daunting assignment for Williams, who with his assistant coaches took it on dressed in business attire on the sideline, a departure from the sweatsuits most NBA and WNBA coaches have been wearing of late.

And the Sparks (5-8) clocked in and delivered a natty opening frame, playing a formidable foe even.

But Las Vegas finished with an 8-0 burst to take a 25-18 lead into the second quarter – an advantage the Aces wouldn’t relinquish.

After walloping L.A. 104-76 ​​in the teams’ first meeting, the Aces’ lead great to as large as 26 Saturday.

Amanda Zahui B. was in the stands, relegated to spectator because the Sparks put her on the season suspended list because playing commitments abroad were going to delay her arrival. Kristi Toliver on the bench in street clothes for the second game after arriving late due to her other job as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks, who reached the NBA’s Western Conference finals.

The Sparks who were available had no real answers for Wilson and company, who shot 45.8% from the field while limiting L.A. to 36.6% shooting.

Dearica Hamby added 20 points for the Aces, who also got 17 points and eight assists from Kelsey Plum and 10 points and seven assists from former Spark Chelsea Gray.

Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 16 points, but the famously efficient forward shot just 5 of 13. Former Mater Dei High School standout Katie Lou Samuelson added 13 points and L.A. Windward High School grad Jordin Canada had 10 and eight assists in the loss.

More to come on this story.




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