The No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces are right where they are supposed to be, hosting a home game to start the WNBA semifinals as they continue their title defense. The No. 4 seed Dallas Wings also are where they want to be, healthy and ready to play the villain by upsetting the top seed on the road. It all begins on Sunday afternoon when the Aces and Wings kick off their series in Vegas at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
How Dallas can upset the Aces
Dallas may be the underdog, but they have a one-two combo that can compete with any team in the WNBA. Satou Sabally, who was just named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player, saw her production jump from 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season to 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds this year. Arike Ogunbowale is unguardable, averaging 22 points in the playoffs, the sixth-highest postseason average. Who is fifth? Sabally. Dallas and Connecticut are the only teams left that have two players producing in the top ten in points per game in the playoffs. Dallas may not have the depth Las Vegas has, but they have the best duo in the series.
Is that enough though?
It can be. If Ogunbowale and Sabally are both providing 20-plus points, you have a chance. Add Teaira McCowan putting up double-doubles and perhaps another role player stepping up, like Awak Kuier did against Atlanta in Game 2 of the first round when she scored 13 points in 20 minutes, and you can beat the Aces at home.
The regular-season series was a 3-1 advantage to Las Vegas, with Dallas’ sole victory being an 80-78 win in July at home. In that game, Ogunbowale had a team-high 21 points and every starter was in double figures. That’s what it will take to repeatedly beat the Aces, a near-perfect game with role players to contributing more than usual.
How the Aces can return to the Finals
Las Vegas is only six wins away from becoming the first team to repeat since the 2002 Los Angeles Sparks. However, the road ahead only gets tougher.
While Dallas will be focused on their two titans going off, Las Vegas’ number one priority will be to prevent that from happening. That means the Aces backcourt will have their hands full trying to slow down Ogunbowale as much as possible. WNBA Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson will undoubtedly be waiting in the post, protecting the rim and discouraging any drives to the basket.
Offensively, the Aces are as potent as can be. Las Vegas has five players averaging double figures in the playoffs. And with their MVP Wilson putting up 38 points in the closeout game against Chicago, one thing has been made clear—if Las Vegas gets rolling, they are nearly impossible to beat. They are the defending champions, benefitted from the improvement of players like Jackie Young and only lost six games this season, making the Aces not just a dominant team today but one of the most dominant teams in basketball history. If they can minimize the damage the Dallas stars cause on the offensive side of the ball, they should be heading back to the WNBA Finals.
No. 4 seed Dallas Wings (0-0) vs. No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces (0-0)
When: Sunday, Sep. 24 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, NV
How to watch: ESPN2
Wings injury report: Diamond DeShields (out; knee), Lou Lopez Sénéchal (out; knee)
Aces injury report: Candace Parker (out indefinitely; foot), Riquna Williams (out; not with team)