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A must-win, a dominant D and red-hot Aces: What to look at within the WNBA semifinals

Michael Voepel Close Michael Voepel Michael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996. Alexa Philippou Close Alexa Philippou ESPN Covers women’s college basketball and the WNBA Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun

A must-win, a dominant D and red-hot Aces: What to look at within the WNBA semifinals

  • Michael Voepel


    Michael Voepel

      Michael Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s faculty basketball, and different faculty sports activities for espnW. Voepel started overlaying ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
  • Alexa Philippou


    Alexa Philippou


    • Covers ladies’s faculty basketball and the WNBA
    • Beforehand coated UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Solar for the Hartford Courant
    • Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with additional expertise on the Dallas Morning Information, Seattle Instances and Cincinnati Enquirer

Sep 26, 2023, 08:15 AM ET

One of many so-called superteams lived as much as the nickname Sunday within the opening video games of the WNBA semifinals. The opposite did not come shut.

The Las Vegas Aces beat the Dallas Wings 97-83, capturing 53.6% from the sector and outrebounding the larger Wings 36-29. The Aces had every week between the conclusion of their first-round sequence and Recreation 1 of the semifinals however confirmed no rust. It was enterprise as normal for the top-seeded defending champions.

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The other was true for the No. 2 seed New York Liberty, who misplaced 78-63 to the Connecticut Sun, with season lows in factors and capturing share (33.8). Coach Sandy Brondello referred to as it the Liberty’s worst recreation of the season, promising a greater efficiency Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN The App) to keep away from taking place 0-2 with the sequence headed to Connecticut.

The Aces’ second recreation will not really feel as “must-win,” however Las Vegas does not wish to go away the Wings any opening, both.

Here’s what all 4 groups will concentrate on for Tuesday’s doubleheader.

What should the Liberty do to even the sequence?

The intangibles, or the issues they’ll management, are at all times a great place to begin. A number of Liberty gamers stated they lacked power Sunday, which was obvious many of the recreation because the Solar dictated how it could go and New York did not provide a lot of a response.

Connecticut has thrived for years off gritty play, which is spearheaded by Alyssa Thomas’ toughness. The Liberty might want to match, if not supersede, that to win this sequence.

It is simple to level to New York needing to deal with Connecticut’s defensive stress higher, and for good cause — if the Solar can persistently preserve the Liberty to fewer than 65-70 factors this sequence, New York is in hassle.

However Brondello’s squad would additionally profit from doing higher on the glass and defensively. That in flip may assist the Liberty get straightforward transition factors and begin opening up issues on the offensive finish. — Philippou

What’s been working so nicely for the Solar this postseason?

We detailed Sunday how the Sun’s defense has been a strength all season. On the opposite finish of the ground, Thomas and DeWanna Bonner had been the workforce’s sole All-Stars, and far has been made about how Thomas, a MVP candidate, needed to do a lot on a workforce with principally position gamers, particularly because the season-ending damage to Brionna Jones.

The pair has had its massive moments within the playoffs (the place Bonner is averaging 21.5 factors and 9.3 rebounds per recreation), however so too have Tyasha Harris, Rebecca Allen, Tiffany Hayes and Natisha Hiedeman. Coach Stephanie White stated Sunday the Solar will go so far as their guards take them — as playmakers, shotmakers and nice defenders. And that is a giant cause Connecticut has the second-best web ranking within the postseason (plus-17.4 factors per 100 possessions), solely behind the Aces (plus-25.9). — Philippou

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Solar steal Recreation 1 vs. Liberty

DeWanna Bonner drops a game-high 20 and the Solar maintain the Liberty to 63 factors to take Recreation 1.

How do the Wings cease the Aces from capturing so nicely?

Is not that what each workforce want to know? The Aces bought the shot choice they wished Sunday, and made probably the most of these alternatives. That is partly simply what Las Vegas has executed so nicely the final two seasons, but additionally might be attributed to the Wings not making it a little bit harder for the Aces.

Then once more, what are you able to do when ahead A’ja Wilson shoots 71.4% on the best way to scoring 34 factors and guards Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum mix for 10 3-pointers? The Aces have outscored their playoff opponents by 64 factors, probably the most by any workforce in WNBA historical past by three playoff video games.

“When [Wilson] will get the ball one-on-one, that is powerful. She’s sure to attain. She’s an excellent participant,” Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale stated. “So we have to make it extra about workforce protection. We won’t simply go away it to the bigs to attempt to include her. Somewhat extra help-side [defense] however clearly they’ve shooters, too. They had been actually comfy, so we have now to attempt to make them uncomfortable.” — Voepel

Can the Aces management the second recreation in addition to they did the primary?

It is potential in the event that they defend and rebound the identical means. Ogunbowale is the Wings’ second-leading scorer this season, however was restricted to 12 factors on 4-for-14 capturing, and by no means bought an opportunity to get right into a groove Sunday.

Ogunbowale was 3 of 10 on contested photographs and 0 of 8 off the dribble. She confronted seven totally different major defenders from the Aces.

“It is actually simply nice focus,” Aces coach Becky Hammon stated. “Not solely our guards, however our bigs being up on her. We wish to make sure that we have now our bodies in entrance of them on a regular basis and make their seems as tough as potential.

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“You possibly can play good protection and so they’re nonetheless going to make some. However over the lengthy haul of the sport, the wear-down issue if we play protection nicely is exhausting for the opposite workforce.” — Voepel

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