By Scott Mammoser
The long-awaited debut of Liz Cambage with the Las Vegas Aces produced an instant impact during her time on the floor for the second-year club. Cambage scored 13 points in 13 minutes during the Aces’ 86-84 loss at the Phoenix Mercury on Friday.
The 6-foot-8 Australian center who led the WNBA with 23 points per game with Dallas in 2018, missed the Aces’ 83-70 season-opening win over the Sparks with an Achilles injury.
Cambage entered the game with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter and the Mercury holding a 21-12 lead. After a Sugar Rodgers three cut the lead to four, Cambage was fouled on a driving layup and converted the free throw with 2.2 seconds on the clock, her first points in a Las Vegas uniform. She opened the second quarter with a basket from downtown that put the Aces in front, 25-24. Las Vegas went up by as many as 12, before being unable to capitalize on the game-tying field goal in the final seconds.
“It was good, I’m sad we didn’t get the win,” Cambage said. “We let that one slip away. I have some work to do, I got some plays under my belt, but this is the start of something big. I made the wrong shot selection a couple of times on shots that would normally go in, but it’s my first game in eight months, so I need to stop riding myself so hard right now. It’s exciting starting, but I am just happy to be here.”
Coach Bill Laimbeer kept Cambage’s minutes reduced, despite only one foul, and eighth-year center Carolyn Swords started the game.
“I thought Liz played very good basketball,” Laimbeer said. “She’s going to be a force on offense for us, she’s going to be another presence, and she got her feet wet today.”
Cambage was also 4-of-4 from the line, while shooting 50 percent from the field. Her point total was two off Kayla McBride’s team high of 15, accumulated while playing more than twice as many minutes.
“When she came in, they were looking for Liz the whole time,” added Mercury coach Sandy Brondello, who also coaches Cambage with the Australian national team. “We were putting pressure around her. She’s a great player, and you have to put a crowd around her. It’s hard to guard her one on one, hopefully she misses.”
Mercury rookie Alanna Smith also was part of the Australian team that won the silver medal at last year’s World Cup in Spain.
“I hope the best for Liz,” said Smith, playing in her home debut on Friday. “I know she’ll do well wherever she goes, a highly skilled player. She has a killer mentality too.”
Prior to last season, Cambage played the 2011-and 2013 seasons with Tulsa, scoring in double figures. Her 53 points against the Liberty last year established a WNBA single-season record, and she also captured a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.