Aces coach Becky Hammon had to lose eventually.
“Offensively, they were better than us,” she said. “Defensively, they were better than us.”
A poor second half — including a seven-point third quarter — cost the Aces on Tuesday as the team suffered its first loss of the season, 89-76 to the Washington Mystics at Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
The Aces (2-1) took a 13-point halftime lead, but faded when former WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne’s post presence proved too much to handle.
“Scoring seven points in a quarter’s not going to cut it in a professional league,” she said.
Las Vegas got off to the better start, as the Mystics (3-0) were missing guard Natasha Cloud, who entered health and safety protocols hours before the game.
The Aces also took advantage after Mystics wing Ariel Atkins went to the locker room after a hard fall midway through the first quarter, building a 49-36 halftime lead.
The Mystics’ push came after halftime. They outscored the Aces 24-7 in the third quarter as Delle Donne and center Myisha Hines-Allen put constant pressure on the rim.
But the Mystics’ defense was the true separator. With Delle Donne and Hines-Allen clogging the paint, the Aces’ potent offense ground to a halt. They shot 57.6 percent in the first half but 25 percent in the second.
Hammon said she thought the team passed on several open 3s, looking for easier shots at the rim, and the indecision led to turnovers.
The Aces committed 16 turnovers, which the Mystics turned into 19 points. The Mystics also stopped the Aces from getting out in transition, holding them to two fast-break points.
“We went away from the things that got us this far,” forward A’ja Wilson said.
Hammon attributed some of the turnovers to fatigue. The Aces’ win against the Seattle Storm on Sunday was pushed back to 7 p.m. to fit into ESPN2’s schedule, so the Aces had to travel across the country Monday instead of getting a recovery day. Additional logistical problems with the team’s bus forced the players to take ride-shares to the hotel, which, guard Kelsey Plum said, affected the team’s rhythm.
“Those little things make a difference,” she said.
Jackie Young led the Aces with 19 points, and Plum scored 18. Wilson scored only 10 and was scoreless in the second half.
Delle Donne scored 19 and Hines-Allen 15. The Mystics got a total of 22 points off the bench from Katie Benzan and Tianna Hawkins.
“I would much rather lose this now than lose it in October,” Wilson said.
The Aces continue their trip with a game against the Atlanta Dream at 4:30 p.m. Friday.