2023 WNBA Finals preview
✏️ The setup
First, a quick refresher on the playoffs so far. After a 12-team, 40-game WNBA regular season, the Aces and Liberty are the final teams standing from the original eight-team postseason field.
- They withstood a best-of-three first round and a best-of-five semifinal to advance to the best-of-five Finals.
Top-seeded Vegas holds home court advantage, so they’ll host today’s Game 1 and Wednesday’s Game 2 before both squads hop on charter flights and head to the Big Apple for next Sunday’s Game 3. Truly soaring, flying.
In addition to the trophy, there’s added money on the line. Like last year, the playoff bonus pool is $500K: Championship team players will earn almost $21K each, while the runners-up will take home about $8K apiece.
👊 The matchup
After a busy offseason, both teams were dubbed “superteams.” The Las Vegas Aces returned the majority of their star-studded championship-winning roster including Chelsea Gray, A’ja Wilson, and Kelsey Plum and added two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker (who’s been out since July due to injury) to their roster.
- For their part, the NY Liberty beefed up their lineup, adding two-time WNBA champ Breanna Stewart and 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. Add in Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney, and the Liberty were given their “superteam” status.
The defending champion Aces blazed through most of the regular season, clinching their playoff berth on August 1st — more than six weeks before the postseason began. But the tale of the tape is closer than you might expect.
- The Libs and Aces faced off four times in regular-season play, with each winning two games on their respective home courts.
- That said, in addition to their home wins, the Libs also defeated the Aces (in Vegas!) by nearly 20 points to win the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup…and the $30K per player bonus that came with it.
This will be Vegas’ third Finals appearance in four years, while New York is the only founding franchise still in existence without a championship ring. Stakes? Raised.
🃏 No. 1 Las Vegas Aces
How they got here: Vegas made quick work of the No. 8 Chicago Sky in the first round, winning Games 1 and 2 by a combined 50-point margin.
- The Aces rode that offense to a semifinal series sweep of the No. 4 Dallas Wings, though Vegas clinched with an uncomfortably close 64–61 Game 3 scoreline.
Players to watch: It’s a full house of talent in Vegas with reigning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year and two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson headlining the squad.
- And if you thought her regular season was impressive, Wilson’s only improved this postseason, averaging a team-leading 25.8 (!!!) points and 11.2 rebounds. Tough.
- Another pair of postseason standouts? Chelsea “Dime Queen” Gray and Kelsey Plum, Vegas’ beyond the arc assassin. The duo’s been unstoppable, each averaging 16 points per game in the playoffs so far.
Key to success: Offense, offense, and more offense. Las Vegas needs the superstar trio of Wilson, Gray, and Plum to go all in to hoist the franchise’s second WNBA championship trophy, particularly since, as mentioned, the Libs proved that stifling their firepower can beat the house.
🗽 No. 2 NY Liberty
How they got here: The Libs took a slightly bumpier road to the Finals. NY needed a Game 2 overtime win to sweep the No. 7 Washington Mystics in the first round and lost their semifinal opener at home against the No. 3 Connecticut Sun, before taking the next three games to lock in their championship series spot.
Players to watch: They don’t call it Stew York City for nothin’. All eyes will be on Breanna Stewart, already a two-time champion with the Seattle Storm, to lead her squad. Though Stewie dominates at the rim, her postseason shooting slump is worrisome. That said, if anyone can shake off a slow start, it’s the 2023 MVP.
- And don’t sleep on Jonquel Jones, the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup MVP and the Libs’ not-so-secret playoff weapon. Jones took a minute to literally find her footing this year, but she’s proving pressure makes diamonds by averaging a postseason double-double.
Keys to success: With team chemistry intact, the Libs need to play tough defense to put out Vegas’ firepower and shoot the ball consistently for all four quarters. Some good news for the concrete jungle? NY boasts a strong, if underutilized, bench.
📺 How to to tune in
As mentioned, Game 1 tips off today at 3 p.m. ET on ABC in the U.S. and Sportsnet ONE in Canada, with the remaining games airing on ABC (Game 3) or ESPN (Games 2, 4, and 5) in the U.S. and on Sportsnet or TSN in the Great White North.