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Aces’ Jackie Young scores career high in WNBA win over Sparks | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Aces’ Jackie Young scores career high in WNBA win over Sparks | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Aces guard Jackie Young (0) dribbles up the court during the first half of a WNBA preseason basketball game against the New York Liberty at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt

By her own admission, Natalie Nakase’s halftime speech during the Aces’ 94-85 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday wasn’t very nice.

The Aces’ interim coach needed to ignite some fire in her players after a difficult first half that saw them trailing by 10 points at the break.

“We just came out a little bit too casual,” Nakase said.

Reigning MVP A’ja Wilson’s interpretation of the speech was a little different. Her main takeaway was “we suck.” Nakase also had a visual presentation.

“She showed us clips that we sucked,” Wilson said.

Nakase’s speech did the trick. The Aces (2-0) stormed back to outscore the Sparks (1-1) 58-39 in the second half at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, led by a career-high 30 points from fifth-year wing Jackie Young.

Wilson contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds despite a slow start. Guard Chelsea Gray and forward Candace Parker added 16 and 10 points, respectively.

The Aces return home to face the Sparks again at 6 p.m. Saturday for the team’s home opener, which will include the ring and banner ceremony for last season’s WNBA championship.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. Guarding Brown

The Sparks started hot, despite missing former MVP Nneka Ogwumike, who was out with a non-COVID illness.

Shooting guard Lexie Brown stepped up in her place, scoring 12 of her 15 points in the first half. She torched the Aces with her movement off the ball, curling around screens and finding lots of success punishing defenders on dribble handoffs with her forwards.

She was perfect from the floor in the first half, making all five of her shots.

Young and veteran wing Alysha Clark were the solution. The Aces’ taller defenders limited Brown’s touches starting in the second quarter and continuing into the second half. She scored three points after halftime and made her first field goal with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nakase also said the team blitzed Brown on screening actions to keep her from shooting.

“We tried to put someone bigger and stronger on her,” Nakase said. “They did their job.”

2. Turnovers

While Brown rained havoc on the defense, the Aces’ offense struggled to find any rhythm. The Aces turned the ball over 20 times, which led to 22 points for the Sparks.

The giveaways led to five more shots before the break for the Sparks, who shot 47.4 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from 3 during the first half. Los Angeles also poured in 12 fast-break points in the first half. The Aces had 14 turnovers in their season-opening win against the Seattle Storm on Saturday.

3. Young closes

With five minutes remaining and the Aces’ lead down to just five points, Young stepped up. Her defender sagged off, so she reset herself and nailed a 3 from the left wing to push the buffer back to eight.

Young got the ball with space on the wing again early during the next possession and nailed another 3 to push the lead to nine, effectively putting the game to bed. It was another positive performance for Young, who scored 23 points against the Storm. So far, Young is 7-for-11 from 3 this season.

“Jackie’s one of the best two-way guards in this league,” Wilson said. “She does it all.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

This content was originally published here.