- 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 Occasions and Cincinnati Enquirer
- Michael Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s faculty basketball, and different faculty sports activities for espnW. Voepel started protecting ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
Sep 30, 2023, 01:56 AM ET
DALLAS — The Las Vegas Aces are one step nearer of their quest to repeat. The defending champions are returning to the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive season and the third time in 4 years after sweeping the Dallas Wings 3-0 within the semifinals, capped by Friday’s 64-61 victory in Dallas. A’ja Wilson and her top-seeded Aces — who’ve but to drop a sport within the postseason — have earned a well-deserved break forward of the Finals, which open Oct. 8 in Las Vegas.
“On our final defensive possession, our mindset was, ‘We’re good, we have got this. Let’s simply execute,’” Wilson stated as Las Vegas closed on an 11-0 run and did not permit the Wings to attain within the ultimate 5 minutes. “I simply felt like we have been so linked.”
However which group will the Aces face as they attempt to change into the league’s first back-to-back champions since 2001-02? The No. 2 seed New York Liberty lead the third-seeded Connecticut Sun 2-1 of their semifinal sequence following a 92-81 Game 3 win Friday in Uncasville. New York seeks its first journey to the WNBA Finals since 2002, and remains to be searching for its first title.
However the Solar will not go down with no struggle, particularly on their residence flooring at Mohegan Solar Enviornment. Additionally seeking its first championship, Connecticut hopes to return to the Finals for the third time in 5 years, which might arrange a rematch of final 12 months’s championship sequence.
We break down all of Friday’s motion and stay up for Sunday’s Sport 4 when the Solar host the Liberty and try and stave off elimination (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App).
Breanna Stewart places up 25-point double-double in Sport 3
Breanna Stewart drops 25 factors and 11 rebounds because the Liberty take management of the sequence vs. the Solar.
What we realized within the Liberty’s win over the Solar
The Liberty had their finest quarter of basketball in awhile after they jumped to a 37-16 lead on the finish of the primary interval Friday, taking pictures 62.5% whereas holding Connecticut to 38.9%. Breanna Stewart discovered her shot within the first body earlier than ending with higher than 36% taking pictures for the primary time this postseason (11-for-19 from the sector, 1-for-3 from 3).
However the Solar outplayed the Liberty many of the remainder of the way in which, outscoring New York by 11 throughout the ultimate half-hour. For those who’re Solar coach Stephanie White, that is an encouraging signal.
And it is also a sign for a way vital Rebecca Allen — out with a non-COVID sickness — is to the Solar. Connecticut actually missed her impression defensively, in addition to her means to knock down 3-pointers, stretch the ground and all of the intangibles she brings as a veteran.
The Liberty gained by their second-largest margin of the postseason, however the Solar are very a lot nonetheless on this sequence, particularly if Allen is ready to play Sunday. — Philippou
What we realized because the Aces eradicated the Wings
Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon has burdened protection again and again because the season began. Positive, the Aces might be an offensive machine the likes of few groups in WNBA historical past. However Hammon knew that they had to enhance defensively to win one other title. Friday’s sport confirmed that.
The Aces’ 64 factors was the franchise’s lowest whole in a playoff win. They’d 20 turnovers — together with a late cross that sailed out of bounds from usually sure-handed level guard Chelsea Gray, who referred to it as, “Throwing it within the ocean” — tying essentially the most they’ve had in any sport since Hammon took over as coach forward of final season.
However the Aces nonetheless gained.
The Wings have been 0-of-8 from the sector in clutch time, which is outlined as when a sport is inside 5 factors with 5 or fewer minutes left in regulation/extra time. That’s the worst clutch taking pictures within the playoffs.
“Final 12 months, we have been a little bit of an anomaly; individuals are used to our actions now,” Hammon stated. “Actually, they’re working a few of our actions now. So I knew it was going to come back all the way down to enhancing protection.” — Voepel
What are the keys to Sunday’s Sport 4?
For Connecticut, a wholesome Allen would assist quite a bit. The Solar additionally have to get again to their defensive strengths and derive their vitality from that finish of the ground. Permitting New York to attain 50 factors within the paint is not going to chop it. The Solar’s means to maintain the Liberty out of their transition sport stays essential.
Can New York come by way of with the vitality and focus to thrust back what’ll probably be a ferocious Solar effort to power a Sport 5? Little doubt the Liberty will attempt to keep away from having this sequence return to Brooklyn and right into a winner-take-all state of affairs.
One other sturdy taking pictures night time from Stewart would assist, however as Sport 3 confirmed, Betnijah Laney is the Liberty’s X issue: She’s scored no less than 19 factors in 4 of New York’s 5 postseason video games (she was held to 3 factors within the 15-point Sport 1 loss to Connecticut). The Liberty have been 16-2 when Laney scored no less than 14 factors within the common season. In different phrases, New York goes as she goes. — Philippou
What is going to the Aces work on with an prolonged break earlier than the Finals begin?
As was the case between the primary spherical and the semifinals, the Aces could have over per week to organize for the Finals. They may look to sharpen some issues on offense, particularly after all of the turnovers Friday.
However resting is among the largest factors of emphasis. Hammon stated Aces heart Kiah Stokes was “completely exhausted” by the tip of Friday’s contest after dealing with the Wings inside.
“We will sit again and watch [the Liberty and the Sun] battle it out,” Hammon stated. “We’re comfortable to be again [in the Finals]. I instructed them their care issue for one another is a separation issue. It is one thing I get to see every day. They dug in like they at all times do.” — Voepel
ESPN Stats & Data contributed to this report.