LAS VEGAS – Phoenix’s Kahlia Cooper became the second player in NBA history to score more than 35 points in back-to-back games as the two-time defending champion Mercury handed Las Vegas a rare home loss.

The Mercury won 98-88 on Tuesday at Michelob Ultra Arena, where the Aces lost only twice last year. The first was on August 15 in the Commissioner’s Cup Final against the New York Liberty, followed by an August 19 regular season defeat to the Los Angeles Sparks. However, the Aces went on to win their second straight WNBA Championship.

Both teams on Tuesday were without key players who have yet to play this season due to injuries: Las Vegas point guard Chelsea Gray (foot) and Phoenix center Brittney Griner (toe).

Copper ended up being the star of the show.

She had 37 points against the Aces, making 15 of 23 shots from the field, following up her career-best 38-point performance in a win over Atlanta on Saturday.

Cooper joins Liz Cambage as the only WNBA players to score more than 35 points in consecutive WNBA games. Cambage did that with Dallas in 2018, when she had 53 points on July 17 and 35 on July 19.

The 2021 WNBA Finals Player of the Year, Cooper had a career-high 18.7 PPG last season for Chicago. She signed a contract extension last September with the Sky, but with the franchise shifting into rebuilding mode this offseason, Copper was traded to Phoenix in February.

“I think I was just put in the perfect situation,” Cooper said of how she filled an obvious need at the wing position for Phoenix. “My offseason was huge. I was proud to be a top-three scorer, but I wanted to be more consistent. Seeing this roster, understanding this is the guy I wanted to play with…it’s like we’ve been together forever.” “.

The Mercury finished last in the WNBA in 2023 at 9-31. But big moves have been made on the roster, including a trade for Copper and the free agent signing of Natasha Cloud, both of whom have won WNBA championships with other franchises. Coach Nate Tibbetts was brought in to take over for the Mercury (2-1).

“It’s because the group continued to believe and didn’t hang their heads when BG fell,” Tibbets said. “I think the team feels like (Cooper) is the hot player right now, she’s going downhill, she’s very aggressive.”

Las Vegas beat Phoenix 89-80 on May 14 in its season opener, then defeated Los Angeles 89-82 on Saturday. But coach Becky Hammon wasn’t happy with the Aces’ defense in any of their three games.

“We didn’t play well, so that’s the false feeling that we’re good,” Hammon said. “So hopefully this will get our attention. We didn’t deserve to win the game.”

Next up for the Aces is the Indiana Fever, where No. 1 overall draft pick Kaitlin Clark will make her first trip to Las Vegas. The Fever and Aces meet Saturday at 9pm ET on NBA TV.


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