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Finals Preview: Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty ready to kick off highly-anticipated series

We’ve got match up that’s been talked about all season! It’s time for the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces or No. 2 seed New York Liberty to be crowned WNBA Champions.

WNBA: Las Vegas Aces at New York Liberty
Can the Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty prevent Chelsea Gray and the Las Vegas Aces from winning a second-straight championship?
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’ve been talking about it since free agency and it’s FINALLY happening—the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces and No. 2 seed New York Liberty will see each other in a best-of five series to decide the 2023 WNBA championship.

It’s sure to live up to the season-long hype! Let’s take a look at what we can expect:

An incredibly even matchup

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
A’ja Wilson defends Jonquel Jones.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The comparisons between the Aces and Liberty have been flying around all season. And for the most part, these teams have actually lived up to all the talk. They are incredibly even on many fronts.

Standings: The Aces finished the WNBA regular season first overall in the standings with a record of 34-6. The Liberty finished right behind them in second place with a record of 32-8.

All-Star Game: The Liberty’s Breanna Stewart and Aces’ A’ja Wilson were voted the All-Star Game captains this year. In the other events during All-Star Weekend, it was the Aces duo of Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray who won the Skills Contest, but then Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty took the 3-Point Contest in record-setting fashion.

Commissioner’s Cup: It was the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces who made it to the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship game in August. The Liberty ended up taking that game, winning 82-63.

Regular season series: New York and Las Vegas played each other four times in the regular season, with each team winning two games to split the season series. Interesting enough, most of those games (and the Commissioner’s Cup) were not close in terms of score. These teams were basically taking turns exploiting each other’s weaknesses. Each team also won one of their games at home and one on the road.

MVP Race: Wilson and Stewart were both top of mind when it came to the 2023 MVP race. Their stats were comparably excellent all season long, and it was Breanna Stewart who ended up taking the title of Most Valuable Player for the season.

Overall, the storylines these two teams have given W fans this season could fill a book.

What’s at stake?

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum defend a Breanna Stewart jumper.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Aces are aiming to win back-to-back championships. Last season’s title was the first in franchise history, and definitely will not be the last based on how this team has operated in recent years. Their top-notch resources, the coaching of Becky Hammon and the level of talent they attract have set them up for long-term success. It would be the first time a WNBA franchise has won back-to-back championships since 2002—and if anyone can do it, it’s this current Aces team.

The New York Liberty are looking to win the first championship in franchise history. They have some previous champions on their team in Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Stefanie Dolson, but the majority of the team is looking for their first ring. It’s the reason they all came together to form this “super team”—to bring a championship to New York City. Despite Stewart already winning championships in the WNBA (and basically everywhere else a women’s basketball player can win a championship), there is one place she hasn’t won it all—in her home state of New York.

Safe to say there is a lot on the line for both teams.

How to watch

Game 1 of this best-of-five series tips off Sunday in Las Vegas at 3 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ABC. Game 2, also in Vegas, is scheduled for Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Game 3 will take the series to New York, where they will play at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 15 on ESPN.

Games 4 and 5 are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET in New York and Friday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. in Vegas.

Games are expected to smash WNBA Finals TV records.

Who will win?

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Truly, there is no way to predict this. Look back at “both teams are incredibly evenly matched.”

The Las Vegas Aces will have to figure out how to contain Jonquel Jones, who has been ON FIRE for the Liberty since the All-Star break. Without the still-injured Candace Parker in the starting lineup, the Aces will have to decide who will primarily defend Jones and who will be assigned to Breanna Stewart. A’ja can’t do both!

In the backcourt, containing Sabrina Ionescu is another priority. The sharpshooter broke the record for most 3-point shots made in a single season this year. She’s incredibly clutch and can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Once she gets going, it’s hard to contain her. But if you spend all this energy attempting to contain Stewart, Jones and Ionescu, there is still Betnijah Laney and Courtney Vandersloot to worry about. Laney has been key for the Liberty in the playoffs, and Sloot finished the 2023 regular season with the most assists per game.

On the other side, the New York Liberty will have to work to contain A’ja Wilson. The Defensive Player of the Year surely will be handing out blocks left, right and center. She also will be the Aces’ main offensive threat. Jones likely will be assigned to defend her, so keeping Jones out of foul trouble while also not allowing A’ja to go off for 50 (which she did just more than a month ago) is of importance.

In the Aces’ backcourt, it’ll be all Point Gawd, all the time. 2022 WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray is BUILT DIFFERENT when a championship in on the line. Going back to when she came off the bench to help the Los Angeles Sparks win the 2016 WNBA championship, Gray has turned it up in the biggest moments. Her efficiency is unmatched, and her ability to find her teammates is why she is an elite floor general.

Tune in Sunday as we head into one of the most highly-anticipated WNBA Finals series of all time!