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Game 2 Preview: Can the Dallas Wings reestablish their identity in the paint and even the series against the Las Vegas Aces?

The Las Vegas Aces opened their semifinals series against the Dallas Wings with an impressive victory, highlighted by efficient 3-point shooting and a dominant individual performance from A’ja Wilson. The Wings have work to do on the boards and in the paint in Game 2.

Dallas Wings v Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas forward No. 22 A’ja Wilson was unstoppable in the Aces’ Game 1 victory, scoring 34 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

The No. 4 seed Dallas Wings will look to even their WNBA semifinal series against the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces this Tuesday, Sep. 26 after the Aces comfortably won Game 1 this past weekend. Tipoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The Aces, A’ja continue to be awesome

The Aces have been on a roll thus far in the 2023 WNBA playoffs. Coming off a 2-0 opening-round series sweep of the No. 8 seed Chicago Sky, they kept it going in Game 1 of the semis against Dallas. While the Aces and Wings looked to be headed for a high-scoring barnburner in the first half, Las Vegas pulled away in the second, winning by a final score of 97-83.

The game was a typical showcase of the Aces’ high-end talent, though in some areas the defending champs exceeded even their own lofty standards. Forward A’ja Wilson continued the tear she’s been on, scoring 34 points on a WNBA-record 15-for-21 shooting. According to Across the Timeline, Wilson also set a record for most points scored across two consecutive playoff games with 72. Meanwhile, Aces guard Jackie Young had one of the strongest performances of her playoff career, recording 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while knocking down five of her six 3-point attempts.

Wings must own the boards, paint

The Wings, on the other hand, got balanced contributions up and down their lineup with six players scoring in double figures, but that offense wasn’t nearly as efficient as that of the Aces’ stars. Dallas’ three leading scorers, Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally and Natasha Howard, combined to shoot 14-for-42 (33.3 percent) from the floor. And while the team as a whole nearly matched the Aces from long range (nine made 3-pointers to the Aces’ 10), the Wings were uncharacteristically inefficient everywhere else, shooting just 44 percent on 2-pointers and 66.7 percent on free throws.

That 2-point scoring, in particular, is something the Wings can ill-afford to carry over into Game 2. Perhaps the biggest advantage Dallas has in the series is its size up front. During the 2023 regular season, the Wings led the WNBA in offensive rebounding rate by a significant margin at 36.9 percent, as well as both second-chance points (14.8) and points in the paint (42.3) per game.

New York Liberty v Dallas Wings
Wings frontcourt players No. 7 Teaira McCowan and No. 6 Natasha Howard will need to contribute more offensively in Game 2 if Dallas is to even the series.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Wings were unable to truly establish themselves in any of those areas in Game 1, however, and it cost them in a matchup in which they have little margin for error. Center Teaira McCowan was quiet, playing just 23 foul-plagued minutes. And while she and Howard grabbed six total offensive rebounds, the Wings as a team were lacking the physicality in the paint they need to offset the Aces’ advantages everywhere else.

Heading into Game 2, it goes without saying the Dallas will need to rediscover their identity on the boards and in the paint. A better game from Ogunbowale, who struggled with her shot against Las Vegas in the regular season (14.8 points in four games on 33.3 percent shooting from the field), would also go a long way for the Wings in trying to match the Aces’ explosive backcourt scoring. Young, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray averaged a combined 59.8 points per game against the Wings in the regular season, with each of them shooting at least 47 percent from the field and 45 percent on 3-pointers in those games.

Game information

No. 4 seed Dallas Wings (0-1) vs. No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces (1-0)

When: Tuesday, Sep. 26 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, NV

How to watch: ESPN

Wings injury report: Diamond DeShields (out; knee), Lou Lopez Sénéchal (out; knee)

Aces injury report: Candace Parker (out; foot), Riquna Williams (out; not with team)