Bill Laimbeer's return trip to New York produced a win with Las Vegas Aces. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Bill Laimbeer wants to win.
He is a competitor, and one only has to look back on the tapes from his NBA days for evidence. Now in his first year coaching the Las Vegas Aces, whose overtime win at Indiana the prior night moved the former San Antonio Stars to 2-7, Laimbeer was facing his former New York Liberty team Wednesday night. But for 40 minutes, sentiment is tossed aside. Laimbeer is here to get a win.
The Aces -- by virtue of an outstanding second half -- did just that, defeating the Liberty by a 78-63 count before 1,419 at Westchester County Center. The teams were relatively even over the first half, with Las Vegas holding a four-point lead at the intermission. Following the first four minutes of the third period, that lead had increased to seven as the visitors began pulling away. The Liberty did score the game’s final five points in the waning seconds to add a glaze to the outcome, but make no mistake, it was a significant win for the Aces.
“From my first day of training camp, defense has been a priority,” Laimbeer said. “We are young, and our players are catching on to what we want to do on the defensive end. We need improvements, but I think we are coming around.”
Laimbeer stressed the fact that this was not an emotional game for him, but did sell his team on the fact it was their lone trip to New York this season, urging the Aces to make the most of it by showing local fans and media what they can do.
As for facing his old team?
“We first and foremost want to win,” he said following the Aces’ second straight triumph. “As far as facing my old team, it didn’t matter that much. We were concerned with what we had to do, but I have to say it was nice to see some familiar faces.”
Bill Laimbeer handles postgame media obligations in return to New York. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
He spoke of his time with the Detroit Shock and the Liberty, connecting to his present position.
“We won a championship in Detroit, we didn’t here," he said, "but we are aiming for that in Las Vegas. We have good management on the same page about winning and we look at the Golden Knights as a model of what can be accomplished.”
For now, though, is win number three -- the second in two nights -- and as Laimbeer added in a partially humorous vein, “our first win streak in franchise history."
The Aces placed four players in double figures, led by Dearica Hamby with 17 points and Kayla McBride with 16, while No.1 overall WNBA Draft pick A’ja Wilson added 13. On the flip side, Wilson’s 3-of-11 shooting from the floor yielded a positive, proving the Aces will not rely on the South Carolina product to provide an opportunity to win. The night before, her career-high 35 points led Las Vegas to their win at Indiana.
“She’s coming along fine,” Laimbeer said of Wilson. “We have to have shooters around her. Outside shooters open things up and will make her even more effective as time goes on.”
For Laimbeer, relaxing postgame thoughts of Dallas in two days could be put aside for a moment. The Aces will have played their fourth road game in six days after Friday.
“The biggest thing with a young team is teaching them to win,” he said. “We are 3-7. I'll take that for now. We're still learning how to win, and these games and experiences are teaching our younger kids.”