The defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces (30-5) will take on the New York Liberty (27-7) for the final time in the 2023 regular season this Monday, Aug. 28. With just a handful of games remaining on the schedule, the game will be of utmost importance to both teams. It will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
As things currently stand, the Aces hold a 2.5-game lead over the Liberty for the WNBA’s No. 1 overall playoff seed, and the season series between the two teams favors Las Vegas, two wins to one.
It should go without saying, then, that if the Liberty still see that No. 1 seed as an attainable goal, Monday’s game is of the “must-win” variety. New York is perhaps the hottest team in the WNBA, having won nine of its last ten games—the one loss coming to Las Vegas on Aug. 17. They most recently defeated the Minnesota Lynx 111-76, a game in which the Liberty led by as many as 43 points.
The Aces, meanwhile, have run into a bit of a rough patch. This is, of course, only relative; Las Vegas went 4-0 in May, 10-1 in June and 9-1 in July while putting up historic offensive numbers. A bit of regression was to be expected, even for one of the best teams the WNBA has ever seen.
That’s not to say the Aces’ recent losses to the Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics weren’t unexpected. And with Las Vegas suddenly appearing mortal, the door is open for the Liberty to make a statement at home. All season long, Las Vegas and New York have been the WNBA’s two best teams, although, save for a surprising Liberty blowout win in early August (as well as their Commissioner’s Cup Championship victory, which does not count in the standings), the Aces have been a step ahead. Not only can New York trim their rival’s lead in the standings with a win, but they also can even the season series at two wins apiece, which could factor into a potential playoff seeding tiebreaker.
On the other hand, if the Aces emerge victorious, they’ll have more or less put New York in the rearview mirror for good, which would allow them crucial rest and recovery time before the playoffs. Las Vegas leans heavily on its star-studded starting lineup. While the results have been infallible to this point, head coach Becky Hammon recently admitted that her team is playing on tired legs. Should the Aces defeat the Liberty on Monday, they’ll have little else to prove the rest of the way, and Hammon can give them the rest they deserve.
The bottom line: Monday’s matchup features the best the WNBA has to offer, and even though the playoffs were a foregone conclusion for the Aces and Liberty before the regular season even began, there’s still plenty at stake for both teams.
Las Vegas Aces (30-5) vs New York Liberty (27-7)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
How to watch: ESPN2
Aces injury report: Candace Parker (out; foot)
Liberty injury report: Marine Johannès (questionable; foot)