With a 34-6 regular-season record and thus far undefeated playoff run, the Las Vegas Aces find themselves one victory away from back-to-back championships—and the ability to stake the claim as the greatest WNBA team ever.
The job's not finished, however, as the New York Liberty are unlikely to go quietly as they host Game 3 in New York. And while have yet to show it this series, the Liberty have the talent to not only win Game 3 but win out and be the first team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in the Finals. Here are the things Las Vegas has to do to ensure their stay in the Big Apple doesn't extend past Sunday night:
Make Jonquel Jones work
While many of the Liberty players have struggled, Jonquel Jones has not. During the Finals, Jones has controlled the glass and scored more than any other Liberty player. Can the Aces keep her off the glass and slow her down offensively? If Jones gets hot from the field and gets the home crowd going, it could spell trouble for the Aces, just like it did in the Commissioner's Cup, when Jones had 16 points and 15 rebounds and took home the MVP award.
Jonquel Jones has 14/9 in 13 minutes. She is shooting 6-9, the rest of the team is 7-28. Just watching her has me tired: pic.twitter.com/78rM05mgjd— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) October 12, 2023
The task of interrupting Jones' offensive flow will fall on A’ja Wilson and Kiah Stokes. It's hard to ask Wilson, who has been so good in these Finals, to step up more, but that is the ask. Considering she is the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, she is up for the task. Stokes also has held her own against Jones, even though Jones’ physicality can give her problems. Stokes has used her speed to stay in front of Jones. The Aces should be in a good position to sweep if they can keep Jones from taking over the game.
Don't let Marine Johannès cook
Marine Johannès has been a thorn in Las Vegas’ side for a few games now. She went off in the Commissioner’s Cup Championship, scoring 17 points off the bench. She had a similar effect in Game 1, dropping 14 points and hitting four three-pointers—including a ridiculous one-legged jumper over Kelsey Plum and Wilson.
Marine Johannes is ridiculous— Teg (@IQfor3) October 8, 2023
4 first half threes, all difficult shots, what a start to the WNBA Finals pic.twitter.com/TmCNXKrojy
When her confidence is at its apex, you get a deadly shooter that can pull up from anywhere and change the momentum of a game. The Aces did a good job of containing her in Game 2 as she went 1-for-4 from the field in 19 minutes; they’ll have to do so again in Game 3.
A game of runs
Basketball is a game of runs and even with New York's struggles, they did go on a couple during this series. They went on a 20-7 run in Game 1 that began at the end of the first quarter and extended into the first couple of minutes in the second quarter, turning a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead. In Game 2, they went on a 12-2 run to end the second quarter and bring themselves back into the game. The Aces have played exceptionally well, but they have to avoid weak ends and/or starts to quarters on Sunday, especially because those runs are even more challenging to overcome on the road. The Aces have an outstanding regular-season record, but five of their six losses were on the road. If they allow a big run to happen Sunday, we could be staying in New York for a Game 4 matchup on Wednesday.
Las Vegas is within reach of history. While closing out teams is typically difficult, the Aces have been perfect during this 2023 playoff run. Last year, they were in the same position—up 2-0 against the Connecticut Sun with a chance to sweep—and they weren't able to get the job done. Let's see if they can get it done Sunday afternoon and add that to an already impressive resume.
No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces (2-0) vs. No. 2 seed New York Liberty (0-2)
When: Sunday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY
How to watch: ABC
Aces injury report: Candace Parker (out; foot), Riquna Williams (out; not with team)