The Las Vegas Aces are going back to the WNBA Finals after completing their three-game sweep of the Dallas Wings in dramatic fashion. In an ugly Game 3 of their semifinal series, the Aces locked in on defense and held the Wings scoreless for the final five minutes and closed on an 11-0 run to complete a three-game sweep. With the win, the Aces remained the only undefeated team in the postseason.
Now, the Aces have reached the final stage of their quest to become the first repeat champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002. They are already the first defending champion to get back to the Finals since the Sparks did so in 2017. There, they will face the winner of the New York Liberty versus Connecticut Sun. Regardless of who wins that matchup, Game 1 of the Finals will tip-off in Vegas on Sunday, Oct. 8.
(1) Las Vegas Aces def. (4) Dallas Wings, 3-0
Game 1:(Aces lead 1-0)
Game 2:(Aces lead 2-0)
Game 3:(Aces win 3-0)
Players to watch
Aces: Kelsey Plum
A'ja Wilson is the Aces' best player, but the player to watch in this series is Plum. She absolutely destroyed the Wings in the regular season, averaging 23 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists on 47.8/45.8/93.3 shooting splits. The Wings don't have a great matchup for her, and she could be in for a big series.
Wings: Arike Ogunbowale
This is the biggest moment of Ogunbowale's career to date, and the Wings are going to need her at her best if they want to pull off the upset. First and foremost, they'll need a composed, efficient offense with smart shot selection that won't trigger the Aces' fastbreak game. More than that, they'll need her to defend like never before to try and slow down this elite Aces backcourt.
Three keys to the series
The 3-point battle
Outside shooting is a key factor in every series these days, but rarely will you have a discrepancy like the one in this series, especially at the semifinal stage. In short, the Aces were one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league during the regular season, and the Wings were the worst. That could be bad news for the Wings.
Here's a quick rundown of some numbers.
- Second in attempts per game (24.9)
- Second in percentage (37.2)
- Third team to average at least 24 3s per game and make at least 37%
- Fourth in percentage of points that came from 3-point line (30.0)
- Four of the top 20 3-point shooters in the league (Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, Alysah Clark)
- Sixth in opponent 3-point percentage (34.3)
- Sixth in attempts per game (21.3)
- Twelfth in percentage (31.7)
- Seventh team ever to average at least 20 3s per game and make fewer than 32%
- One player in the top 25 3-point shooters in the league (Satou Sabally)
- Twelfth in percentage of points that came from the 3-point line (23.1)
- Tenth in opponent 3-point percentage (36.0)
Of course, there's no guarantee those numbers hold during a short five-game series. And, in fact, so far in the playoffs, the Wings have been the better team from downtown, making 36.8% of their attempts compared to 32.6% for the Aces. However, the Aces should have a big advantage in that department. They have more players who can hurt you from behind the arc, are much more accurate as a team, and defend the line better.
How do the Wings slow down the Aces' guards?
In terms of position battles, there's no bigger mismatch in this series than the Aces' backcourt on offense against the Wings' backcourt on defense. All three of Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young are All-WNBA caliber scorers, while the likes of Arike Ogunbowale and Crystal Dangerfield have never been known for their work on the defensive side of the ball.
During the regular season meetings between these two teams, the Aces' backcourt trio feasted. They averaged a combined 59.8 points and 15.7 assists on 52.2% shooting from the field and 48.7% from 3-point land, as the Aces went 3-1 (Plum did not play in the Aces' July 5 win).
It's worth noting that Odyssey Sims is now playing a much bigger role for the Wings, and she's a better defender than Ogunbowale or Dangerfield. In addition, Veronica Burton was an elite perimeter stopper in college, and could be an option off the bench, but she barely played in the first round. We saw the Wings go zone at times in the regular season matchups, but that will give the Aces clean looks at 3 and they shot 46.6% from deep in those games.
Regardless of how Latricia Trammell manages the backcourt minutes and their game plan, the Wings are undersized and don't have the personnel to slow down the Aces' backcourt, and that's a major problem when considering how they can win this series. We saw during the regular season that trying to outscore the Aces isn't a successful strategy. When they reached the 80-point mark they were 33-1; when they didn't they were 1-5. You have to slow their offense down to beat them, and it's hard to see how the Wings do that.
The Wings had the third-best offensive rating in the league this season, scoring 106.9 points per 100 possessions, despite being an awful 3-point shooting team and having a league-average 53.5 true shooting percentage. How did they pull that off? By dominating the offensive glass.
Led by Teaira McCowan, Satou Sabally and Natasha Howard, who all finished in the top-10 in offensive rebounds per game, the Wings grabbed an astounding 36.9% of their missed shots this season, and turned them into 14.8 second-chance points per game -- both marks ranked first in the league.
In the first round, it was the same story, as they destroyed the Atlanta Dream on the glass, grabbing 23 offensive rebounds in the two games and converting them into 34 second-chance points. Having that much success against the Aces will not be so easy. The Aces finished first in defensive rebounding rate (73.3) during the regular season, boast one of the best rebounders in the league in A'ja Wilson and a big backcourt that can help crash the glass.
While the Wings are going to have some success in that department, but if they can't own the offensive glass it will be hard for them to score consistently in this series.
The Wings are a fun team with a promising future, but they're too inconsistent on offense and do not play anywhere near enough defense to hang with the Aces in this series. The defending champs are heavy favorites for a good reason, and it's tough to see how the Wings even get a game in this matchup. Pick: Aces in 3