It was an electrifying night in Sin City where the Las Vegas Aces took on the Phoenix Mercury for the second time this season. Both teams displayed a spectacular show of competitive nature and athleticism, but it was Phoenix that came out victorious in a 98-88 win against the two-time defending champions. Kahleah Copper led the Merc to victory with an array of threes and 37 points, which is the second-highest total of her career, only surpassed by the 38 she put up in her last game against the Atlanta Dream.

It was a battle from start to finish. A matchup that Las Vegas Coach, Becky Hammon, says was one her Aces should have been prepared for.

“88 points is enough to win a game,” Coach Hammon said after the Aces' first loss of the season.

On Tuesday, the Aces didn’t have their first lead in the game until the second quarter. Despite three players scoring 20 or more points throughout the game, the onslaught of threes from Copper and her team allowed Las Vegas to fall short. All five of the Aces' starting lineup contributed double digits. Guard Kelsey Plum led the Aces with 27 points. Shooting guard Jackie Young contributed 23 points, while forward A’ja Wilson added 21.

The Mercury finished last in the WNBA in 2023 at 9-31. But after an 89-80 loss against the Aces to kick off the season, Phoenix came back to Sin City with a vengeance. Copper, who had a career-best of 38 points in her last game, had 14 points in the fourth quarter, with a final 37 points in the game. Her rain of threes persisted throughout the night, making 15 of 23 shots from the field.

As we predicted, this game came down to the wire. The Aces cut the Mercury’s lead to two in the final minute after trailing by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter. It was Mercury guards Natasha Cloud and Sophie Cunningham who closed the game by making all four of their combined attempts from the free-throw line.

Mercury’s Kahleah Copper insane history-making night

Mercury guard Kahleah Copper (2) makes a layup against the Dream during the home opener at the Footprint Center on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
© Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Mercury secured a win against the Atlanta Dream on Saturday where Copper dominated and set her career-best of 38 points. She is now the second player in WNBA history to have back-to-back games of 35-plus points.

Mercury’s starting guard didn’t let up in game three of the season, landing five of her nine three-point attempts. Copper added a driving layup, with just 42 seconds to play, to the memorable night. Copper is in her first season with the Merc. Last season, she signed a contract extension with the Sky but was traded to Phoenix in February.

“This is a couple of years in a row that she’s given us buckets. But, letting her get downhill to that right hand, right hand every time. I mean at some point we have to be able to make some adjustments,” Aces’ Hammon said.

Aces drop ball on defense

Coach Hammon hasn’t been happy with defense in any of Las Vegas’ three games. This is the second straight game the Aces have allowed a player to put up 25 points or more in a single game. While we’ve seen amazing efforts from the team on offense, Hammon says this is not her concern. Two-time MVP Wilson agrees that this experience can be used as a lesson.

“I’m really glad we had a game like this,” Wilson said. “When it comes to the off-court stuff, we’re professional athletes, we’re going to get the job done no matter what.”

“We didn’t deserve to win the game. So, give them credit. Punched us in the mouth. We will see what we’re made of on Saturday,” Hammon said.

The Las Vegas Aces will have their final homestand stretch on Saturday, May 25 against the Indian Fever.