With 37 points, Kahleah Copper leads Mercury past the Aces.

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Phoenix’s Kahleah Copper made history by becoming only the second player in WNBA history to score 35-plus points in back-to-back games. The Mercury defeated the two-time defending champions, Las Vegas Aces, 98-88 at Michelob Ultra Arena. This venue is notoriously tough for visiting teams, with the Aces losing just twice at home last year. Their first loss was to the New York Liberty in the Commissioner’s Cup final on August 15, and the second was to the Los Angeles Sparks in a regular-season game on August 19. Despite these setbacks, the Aces went on to win their second consecutive WNBA championship.

Both teams were missing key players who have yet to play this season due to injuries. Las Vegas was without point guard Chelsea Gray, who is out with a foot injury. Phoenix was missing center Brittney Griner, sidelined with a toe injury. Despite these absences, Copper emerged as the standout player, scoring 37 points and making 15 of 23 shots from the field. This performance followed her career-best 38-point game in a win over Atlanta on Saturday. Copper joined Liz Cambage as the only players in WNBA history to achieve 35-plus points in consecutive games. Cambage accomplished this feat for Dallas in 2018, scoring 53 points on July 17 and 35 on July 19.

With 37 points, Kahleah Copper leads Mercury past the Aces. 3

Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, averaged a career-high 18.7 points per game last season for the Chicago Sky. She signed a contract extension with the Sky last September but was traded to Phoenix in February as the franchise entered a rebuilding phase. Copper expressed her satisfaction with her new team, stating, “I think I was just put in the perfect position. My offseason was big. I took pride in being a three-level scorer, but I wanted to be more consistent. Seeing this roster, and understanding this was who I wanted to play with … It’s like we’ve been together forever.”

The Mercury finished last in the WNBA in 2023 with a 9-31 record. Significant roster changes were made in the offseason, including the acquisition of Copper and the free-agent signing of Natasha Cloud. Both of these players have won WNBA championships with other teams. Additionally, Nate Tibbetts was brought in as the new head coach for the Mercury, who now have a 2-1 record. Tibbetts praised the team for their resilience, particularly after Griner’s injury. “Credit to the group continuing to believe, not hanging their head when BG went down,” Tibbetts said. “I think the team feels [Copper] is the hot player now — she’s getting downhill, she’s being extremely aggressive.”

The Aces, who defeated Phoenix 89-80 in the season opener and beat Los Angeles 89-82 on Saturday, have struggled with their defense. Coach Becky Hammon expressed her dissatisfaction with the team’s defensive performance across their three games. “We haven’t been playing well, so it’s this false sense of being good,” Hammon said. “So hopefully it gets our attention. We didn’t deserve to win the game.”

Next, the Aces will face the Indiana Fever, with No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark making her first trip to Las Vegas. The Fever and Aces are set to meet on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

With 37 points, Kahleah Copper leads Mercury past the Aces. 4

Copper’s stellar performances have significantly boosted the Mercury’s start to the season. Her ability to fill critical roles and elevate her team’s play has been evident. The additions of Copper and Cloud, combined with the strategic guidance of Coach Tibbetts, have transformed the Mercury into a formidable contender early in the season. As the Mercury continue to build on their successes, they will aim to capitalize on this momentum and establish themselves as a top team in the league.

For the Aces, the focus will be on addressing their defensive shortcomings and regaining the form that led them to back-to-back championships. The upcoming game against the Fever will be an opportunity to make necessary adjustments and return to their winning ways. As the season progresses, both teams will be looking to refine their strategies and improve their performances. The Mercury hope to continue their upward trajectory, while the Aces strive to defend their championship title.

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