Las Vegas Review-Journal

Cambage returns in regular-season finale

- By Sam Gordon Las Vegas Review-journal Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjour­ Follow @Bysamgordo­n on Twitter.

Liz Cambage flashed a grin Sunday after the Aces’ 84-83 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in the regular-season finale. Finally, she was back to playing basketball. With her teammates.

Healthy again after battling COVID-19.

“I’m just thankful the COVID didn’t get in my lungs. I think I’ve got to thank the vaccine for that,” the All-star center said. “I’m just grateful to be back with the girls.

“It was tough. It was tough being away from them. Being away from everyone. … I’m just happy to be back and grateful no one else got it as well.”

Cambage played Sunday for the first time since Aug. 28 and recorded four points and four rebounds in 10 minutes as a reserve at Footprint Center in Phoenix. Kelsey Plum scored a game-high 23, Jackie Young had the game-winning putback with 4.3 seconds remaining, and Jisu Park blocked Mercury forward Brianna Turner’s shot as time expired, triggering a celebratio­n on the Aces’ sideline.

The Aces finished the regular season with a 24-8 record and enter the WNBA playoffs as the No. 2 seed. They are off until Sept. 28, giving Cambage ample time to re-acclimate after her bout with COVID. Phoenix finished 19-13.

“She looked normal,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said of Cambage. “Conditioni­ng is going to be her biggest factor this week. … I expect her to work very hard in practice, and I expect her to come out and play well in the next game.”

Cambage said she began feeling symptoms Aug. 30 as the Aces returned to practice after a three-game road trip. She promptly departed and returned home to take a nap, only to awake with body aches. The 30-year-old said she took COVID-19 tests to confirm she contracted it.

Her mother, Julia, traveled from Australia to help her battle the virus and work through the WNBA’S health and safety protocols.

“If (she) wasn’t here looking after me, feeding me, giving me all my painkiller­s and all the stuff from the medical team … I’m just so thankful she was here to look after me,” Cambage said. “She’s the real MVP at the moment. I’m just grateful that it stayed out of my lungs.”

Cambage said she’ll be in “training camp” this week fortifying her conditioni­ng and credited her teammates for securing the No. 2 seed. They clinched their spot Friday and a subsequent double bye into the WNBA semifinals, rendering Sunday’s game meaningles­s in terms of playoff positionin­g.

“This is a completely new season now,” Plum said. “Whoever we’re going to play next, we have to be ready for and prepared for. Playoffs are a different type of season. It’s a different type of focus, execution level, intensity.”

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