The Las Vegas Aces were a trendy preseason pick as WNBA title favorites, but they're not playing like that at the moment.
Looking to avoid a third straight defeat, the visiting Aces try to extend the Atlanta Dream's losing streak to three games on Thursday night.
The additions of star forward Liz Cambage and No. 1 overall draft pick Jackie Young vaulted Las Vegas (1-2) to title contenders seemingly overnight. However, coach Bill Laimbeer knew it wasn't going to be easy.
"I kept saying 'Hey, wait a minute. We don't know how to win,'" Laimbeer said following Sunday's 80-74 home loss to Connecticut. "We don't know how to win. (Sunday) was an example of that. We were lazy ... We were not mentally strong at all. That's an acquired trait. On a basketball team, you have to learn it. You have to earn it."
That's not to say the Aces won't improve enough to become title contenders, but it could take time. Cambage has totaled 27 points and nine rebounds in two games but is still not 100 percent healthy. A'ja Wilson (17.0 points per game) scored 19 against the Sun but also had six of Las Vegas' 21 turnovers. Meanwhile, guards Kelsey Plum and Young were each held scoreless.
Through three games, the Aces are averaging 16 turnovers and opponents are shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range.
"We have to dig deep individually and collectively in order to put forth the effort to win basketball games," Laimbeer said via the team's official Twitter account.
Perhaps that will be demonstrated against the Dream (1-2), who continue to struggle with star Angel McCoughtry injured and Tiffany Hayes averaging just 8.3 points. Atlanta is averaging only 72.3 points while giving up 83.3.
The Dream allowed Washington to shoot 56.7 percent during a 96-75 road loss Saturday in a rematch of last season's semifinals. That came a day after falling 82-66 at home to Seattle, a game in which Atlanta shot 32.9 percent.
"We didn't play good basketball in those two games, but it's a short time frame," coach Nicki Collen told the Dream's official website. "As much as our season is short, it's still long. We did go back to basics (in practice this week), but I think it all translates not just to us being good every day, but us being good against Vegas as well."
Atlanta, which swept the three-game season series from Las Vegas in 2018, last dropped three in a row during the 2017 campaign.