The Las Vegas Aces have finally managed to win back-to-back games, but they'll be in for a major challenge while trying to stay in the right direction.
Looking for a third consecutive victory, the Aces host the Washington Mystics on Thursday night to open a three-game home stretch.
With the addition of star forward Liz Cambage prior to the season, Las Vegas (4-3) went from a squad in rebuilding mode to a potential WNBA title contender. When the Aces dropped three of their first five, coach Bill Laimbeer continued to warn fans and media alike that he still has a young team learning how to win.
Vegas has done that of late, rolling to a 100-65 home victory over New York on Friday, then winning 80-75 at Minnesota on Sunday. Kayla McBride had 22 points and Kelsey Plum added 21 on Sunday as the Aces overcame 16 turnovers and an early 19-6 deficit to outscore the Lynx 14-3 down the stretch.
"Being able to click and trust each other, that takes time," McBride, averaging a team-high 18 points, told the Aces' official website. "I think (Sunday) was another step toward that.
The goal moving forward for Vegas is quite obvious, as far as McBride is concerned.
"Stringing wins together," she said. "I think it's really hard in this league to get wins, period ... We go home for three games, and it's just going to continue to get harder."
Like Las Vegas, Washington (5-3) carried some lofty expectations into this season after losing in the WNBA Finals a year ago. The Mystics opened June with four straight wins before losing to league-leading Connecticut and reigning champion Seattle.
However, Washington bounced back by opening a stretch of four consecutive road contests with a resounding 81-52 victory at Los Angeles on Tuesday. Ariel Atkins hit five 3-pointers and finished with 22 points while Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored a career-high 17 off the bench as the Mystics held the Sparks to 28.8 percent shooting to spoil the return of star Candace Parker from injury.
Atkins is one of eight players averaging at least 8.8 points for the Mystics. Washington has yet to win consecutive games on the road in 2019, and lost 85-73 at Las Vegas last season as the teams split two contests.
In a rather controversial decision, the Aces forfeited the teams' final scheduled 2018 meeting at Washington on Aug. 3 because of extensive travel issues that didn't get them to the area but a few hours before tip time. The Vegas club felt it was not prepared to compete at a high level.
Plum has scored 40 points while going 8 of 13 from 3-point range in the last two games. She totaled 35 and went 5 of 17 from beyond the arc in the first five contests.