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WNBA Finals Preview 2023

Graphic by Rania Elhilali

By: Lyndsay Helfrich

It’s Finals season, babyyyy! On one side of the court, we have the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, and on the other side, the superteam New York Liberty. Much to the joy of the sportsbooks, the two teams with the best odds to go to the Finals at the beginning of the season are indeed matching up, vindicating the offseason hype.

Game 1 of the series kicks off on October 8th in Las Vegas. Let’s get started on what you need to know about this heavyweight battle.

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs No. 2 New York Liberty

  • Game 1: Liberty at Aces, October 8 (3 p.m. ET)

  • Game 2: Liberty at Aces, October 11 (9 pm ET)

  • Game 3: Aces at Liberty, October 15 (3 pm ET)

  • Game 4, if necessary: Aces at Liberty, October 18 (8 pm ET)

  • Game 5, if necessary: Liberty at Aces, October 20 (9pmET)

Despite turning in their worst performance of the playoffs in Game 3, the Las Vegas Aces still managed to bring out the broom and sweep the Dallas Wings in their semi-final matchup, remaining undefeated this postseason. Though they have been missing Candace Parker through this playoff run (and much of the season), the Aces were too much for the upstart Wings to handle. A’ja Wilson’s playoff dominance continued, averaging a double-double and making WNBA history by becoming the first player with three-straight 30-point playoff games.

It’s not all just Wilson, though; three of her running-mates Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and the “Point Gawd” Chelsea Gray are all averaging more than 15 points for the postseason, with Gray and Young also combining for a little better than 11 assists per game. This is their third Finals appearance in four years – the Aces are not going to shy away from the moment.

The New York Liberty had the tougher matchup in their semi-final series, losing Game 1 against the Connecticut Sun before finishing them off with three straight wins. The Liberty’s busy offseason acquiring star talent in 2023 MVP Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot has paid off so far, getting them to the Finals for the first time since 2002. They will now aim for the franchise’s first-ever title.

Like the Aces, having an MVP with championship experience will make the Finals less daunting for New York, but also like the Aces, there is more to this team than just the headlining star. The Liberty have five players averaging 10 points per game, giving them a balanced attack to pair with a physical defence.

Key Players

Las Vegas - Kelsey Plum

The Aces were the best three-point shooting team in the league this season and how they shoot will be a big part of repeating as champions. Kelsey Plum in particular has been hot behind the arc this postseason, raising her three-point percentage by nearly four points to 42%. On top of her improved shooting, Plum’s defensive effort has improved dramatically throughout her career, helping her stay on the court in the biggest moments. Plum will need to continue to be an active participant in the Aces' defensive game plan to slow down the Liberty and their many defensive threats.

New York - Betnijah Laney

Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu grab a lot of the headlines, but possibly the most important factor in the Liberty’s win over the Sun was the play of Betnijah Laney. Laney has been an underrated player for New York all season long, but she is the straw that stirs the drink. Laney is a defensive stopper on the wing, putting the best scorers on the other side in basketball jail. Laney is more than just a defensive stopper, though, playing a big role on offence for this Liberty team. She has shot 43% from three and increased her points-per-game average from 12 to 17 during their playoff run, filling the gap when Ionescu struggled in the final game against the Sun. Stepping up on the big stage that is the Finals will hopefully lead to Laney getting the flowers she deserves.

Vibe Check

This one is gonna be a battle. Las Vegas and New York entered the season as the favourites to make the Finals, and here they are having both cruised through their playoff matchups to this point.

They match up well against each other, with both teams having played stout defence and stellar offence as they split their season series 2-2. In the regular season, these teams finished first (Aces) and second (Liberty) on offence, averaging 92 and 89 points per game respectively. They have been more evenly matched this postseason at 86 and 84 points per game. Both teams sport dynamic perimeter scoring threats and strong frontcourts.

Coaching will also play a big role: Becky Hammon and Sandy Brondello have both won championships from the sidelines and have plenty of playing experience in the league to boot. This Finals matchup is going to be close and it is going to take maximum effort from both teams’ stars and role players to bring home the 2023 WNBA title.


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