The Las Vegas Aces came up short in their first matchup with the New York Liberty since the 2023 WNBA Finals. The 90-82 defeat pushes the Aces' record to 6-6. Once again, two-time WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson scored 20-plus points in the game, extending her WNBA record to 17 straight contests. 

Wilson continues to lead the team on and off the court. In Saturday afternoon's postgame conference, the Aces star became emotional when asked about her leadership and accountability. 

“I put myself out there on the front. It's hard, it's really hard,” Wilson said. “But, I love my teammates so much that I will take any hit from them. Good, bad, ugly, I'm going to go out there, and I'm going to try to be the best.” 

The back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year has been giving her best all season. On Saturday, she scored 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists.  But there's also been a noticeable step back from one of the team's core three. 

“I get y'all saying ‘the best player in the world,' and that sounds great and looks great. But, I want to be the best person, the best teammate, because that's how I get the best out of my teammates,” a teary-eyed Wilson said in the Aces vs. Liberty postgame conference. 

But one thing she noted is missing is defense. The team's defensive rating led the WNBA last season. It was ninth entering Saturday's game. And with a player like Jonquel Jones, who scored a career-high 34 points on the opposing team, the squad needs to show up. 

“It starts with me. It's always going to start with me because I have 11 other women in that locker room that I need to pull greatness out of,” A'ja Wilson added.

“I want them to be great, not just for rings and banners, because I know the potential that we have in the locker room.” 

Sick game for Aces' Kelsey Plum

Though the game started out slow, it did start in Las Vegas' favor. The Aces scored the first six points of the game, coming in with great energy in front of 10,424 fans at Michelob ULTRA Arena–a new attendance record on their home court. 

Kelsey Plum led the Aces in scoring with 22 points, making five of her 16 field goal attempts while grabbing two two rebounds. The Plum Dawg's three assists moved her into the No. 2 spot in franchise history with 843 in total, passing Danielle Robinson's 841. Coach Becky Hammon has the No. 1 spot with 1,133.

Plum stepped in where needed. She proved to often be at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately for the Aces, those first few points in the first quarter were followed up by New York going up 11-9 and staying ahead the remainder of the period. 

But by the half, the gap had closed, and the Aces were nearly even-keeled with the Liberty. The game became an intense fight to regain composure and close a 10-point gap for the Aces, who managed to get no closer than eight points in the final quarter. The Liberty was up by as many as 18. Plum scored six points for the Aces, but a couple of turnovers sealed Las Vegas' fate. 

Plum's stellar showing comes after a much quieter game against Phoenix on Thursday. On Saturday, it was announced that the star Aces guard was under the weather and wasn't feeling well enough to attend the post-game conference. 

This comes after Jackie Young fell ill ahead of the Dallas Wings matchup last week. 

But the team's mounting problems don't start or end with sick players. 

A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas looks to stop the bleeding

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (22) reacts after the game against the LA Sparks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“The mistakes, it's like plugging holes in a dam,” Hammon said after Saturday's game against Liberty at home. 

Hammon and her Aces have been playing whack-a-mole very early on in the season. There's no doubt about it; teams are coming for the reigning champs. It's how they're dealing with it that's concerning. 

The defense keeps coming up. But this wasn't the only problem in Saturday's game against New York. The Liberty edged the Aces on the glass, 37-31, and outscored Las Vegas 12-4 on the fast break.

“We don't have an edge, and we have not had it since Day 1 in training camp,” Hammon admitted. “I've felt it, and I've tried to address it. But, we just, we're not that hungry.” 

And the effort is there. Kiah Stokes' 12 rebounds on Saturday were a season-high. And both Sydney Colson and Kate Martin came off the bench with buckets. 

But the spirit–and the defense–of back-to-back champs was not there, and it won't lead to a three-peat. But there's still time for growth. 

“We have to stay disciplined for the 40 minutes, and that's hard. But that separates the good from the great,” A'ja Wilson added.  “I'm not going to stop. I'm going to continue to challenge my team and my teammates every single day.” 

The Aces will be home again at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Wednesday to play the Seattle Storm. Tip-off is 7 pm PT.