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Aces rout Liberty for seventh straight win

Kelsey Plum Las Vegas Aces Kelsey Plum - The Canadian Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kelsey Plum scored 18 points and the Las Vegas Aces routed the New York Liberty 98-81 on Thursday night in the first meeting between two of the top teams in the WNBA.

It was the seventh consecutive win for the Aces (14-1), who have been nearly unstoppable this season on offense, averaging nearly 93 points a game. All five of the Aces starters scored in double figures, with A'ja Wilson putting in 16 while Jackie Young and Candace Parker each added 15. Chelsea Gray had 14 points and six assists, including a few highlight reel ones.

The Aces pulled away in the second half to run away with the much-hyped first matchup between the teams who made the biggest moves in the offseason, with the defending champion Aces signing Parker and Alysha Clark. The Liberty added Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot and Kayla Thornton.

The teams came into the game ranked first and second in points per game and both play an unselfish brand of basketball, with the Liberty first in assists and the Aces second.

“If you’re not excited to play these kind of games you better check your pulse and see if you’re a real basketball fan,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said before the game. “They play a brand that I like. It will be difficult to stop. The score won’t be in the 70s. It’s just about making their looks as tough as possible. You can do all right and they still might score.”

The Aces were able to contain the Liberty on offense, contesting nearly every shot. On offense, they jumped out to a strong start behind Plum, who had 13 points in the first quarter as the Aces led 28-22.

New York (10-4) trailed 49-42 at the half, but Las Vegas scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to blow the game open and extended the advantage to 18.

The Liberty, who had their four-game winning streak snapped, didn't get within single digits the rest of the way. The teams will play three more times in the regular season.

Stewart scored 16 points and Jones added 13 for the Liberty.

It’s been a busy week for New York. The Liberty played an overtime against Washington on Sunday, edged Connecticut on the road on Tuesday before traveling all day Wednesday to get to Las Vegas for the Thursday night’s game.