Both top seeds took care of business on the road, with the No. 2 seed New York Liberty pummeling the Connecticut Sun 92-81 and the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces beating the No. 4 seed Dallas Wings 64-61, eliminating Dallas from the playoffs. Las Vegas will begin the defense of their WNBA title against the winner of the Liberty-Sun series on Sunday, October 8, on ABC.
New York ended the way they started
With the series even at 1-1, the Liberty established dominance from the jump against the Sun. They were firing on all cylinders, with Breanna Stewart scoring 12 points in the first quarter en route to a 25-point night. After a lackluster Game 1, Betnijah Laney has come alive in this series, scoring 20 points in both Game 2 and Game 3. The victory puts New York one win away from their first WNBA Finals appearance since 2002.
The Liberty just posted a 160.9 offensive rating in the first quarter, btw.— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) September 29, 2023
On Friday, the Sun never had a chance, getting outscored 37-16 in the first quarter. The Liberty’s scoring onslaught continued, with their 92 total points representing the most points in a playoff game in franchise history. New York never trailed, even as Connecticut played significantly better as the first half progressed. But the Sun could not get within single digits after the Liberty buried them with a 24-6 run to close out the opening quarter.
The drubbing is especially discouraging for the Sun because their key players were productive. Four of Connecticut’s five starters were in double figures and WNBA MVP runner-up, Alyssa Thomas, ended the night just shy of a triple-double with 23 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Olivia Nelson-Ododa was another bright spot after she was slotted into the starting lineup with Rebecca Allen placed on the bench with a non-Covid illness. Nelson-Ododa scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting during her 26 minutes of play. Allen ultimately was cleared to play but became a DNP-Coach’s Decision; her availability and health will be something to focus on for Sunday’s elimination game.
Las Vegas is Finals-bound
Dallas had the win in hand, but Las Vegas went on an 11-0 run to close out the game and the series, beating the Wings 64-61 to clinch their WNBA Finals berth.
This game was Dallas’ to win with A’ja Wilson struggling to produce offensively, scoring just 13 points while shooting 40 percent from the field. The Wings outrebounded the Aces 41-39 and forced the Aces into 20 turnovers, a season-high for Las Vegas. But Dallas choked at home, failing to score a single point in the final 4:59 minutes of play.
For Las Vegas, the guard trio of Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young helped make up for a lackluster Wilson game. The three combined for 37 points and 13 of the team’s 16 assists. Arike Ogunbowale led Dallas with 18 points, but she did so shooting an inefficient 8-for-24 from the field. However, with both teams struggling to put points on the board, her aggression and relentlessness helped keep the Wings in front most of the night.
Dallas bigs Natasha Howard and Teaira McCowan had great games, both putting up double-digit points and McCowan adding a game-high 15 rebounds. The biggest disappointment for the Wings (besides losing) had to be Satou Sabally. The WNBA’s Most Improved Player has some work to do before the next time she plays postseason basketball, as she ended the night scoring just five points on 2-for-15 shooting. She finished the series averaging 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, with both marks well below her season averages of 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
The Aces will get eight days of rest before hosting Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. The Liberty will be looking to joining them in Las Vegas, needing one more win to punch their ticket. However, the Sun will undoubtedly bring their best on Sunday at home, looking to extend the series to a Game 5 winner-take-all showdown in New York on Tuesday. If Connecticut does pull off the upset and ultimately win the series against New York, it will be the first time we’ve had a WNBA Finals rematch since the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks faced each other in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017.