Las Vegas Aces: Road to the Repeat
The Las Vegas Aces became the first team in 21 years to win back-to-back championships after beating the New York Liberty 70-69 in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. The victory came after losing starters Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes both to foot injuries after Game 3.
“This one’s sweeter,” said head coach Becky Hammon. “We had our good names slandered and all these women did was lock in together. This is probably the tightest group I’ve ever been around.”
The historic 34-win season started back in February when the Aces signed two-time MVP and seven-time All-Star Candace Parker. The addition of one of the greatest to ever do it quickly sparked conversations of a superteam and stamped them as top contenders to repeat.
They immediately proved their dominance with a season-opening 105-64 win against the Seattle Storm and a 93-65 win against the Los Angeles Sparks in the Aces home opener and banner night.
On July 7, Parker played what would be her final game of the season, injuring her foot in the close loss to the Dallas Wings. She underwent surgery later in the month.
Despite the loss of Parker, the Aces team rallied together and took their games to another level. In the first game without Parker, Kelsey Plum set a franchise record of 40 points to defeat the Minnesota Lynx 113-89. A little over a month later, A’ja Wilson matched this record against the Washington Mystics in another 113-89 victory. Eleven days later she topped it, tying the WNBA single-game scoring record with 53 points in a 112-100 victory against the Atlanta Dream.
Come playoffs, the Aces went undefeated in the first two rounds against the Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings to reach the finals matchup that had been predicted all season. In their first matchup of the regular season, the Aces were able to secure the 98-81 victory. However, they dropped their next two games against the Liberty and ultimately went 2-3 against them in the regular season.
The Aces had dominant wins in their first two games of the Finals series. They won game one 99-82 with 26-point performances from both Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum. They were led in game two by A’ja Wilson’s 26-point, 15-rebound double-double to secure the 104-76 victory. Despite Kelsey Plum’s 29-point performance, the Aces dropped game three at Barclays to the Liberty, who were led by Jonquel Jones’ 27 points.
With game 4 on the Liberty’s packed homecourt and two additional Aces starters out with injury, people began counting them out. From Alysha Clark’s defensive masterclass to A’ja Wilson’s 24-point, 16-rebound double-double, it was a battle that took everyone’s best effort and came down to just one point.
With the game tied at 64 points, the Aces scored six consecutive points to put them ahead with just over a minute to go. New York brought it within one and had the final possession, leaving them with 8.8 seconds left to take the win. The Liberty got the ball to Stewart who was double-teamed and passed it off the Courtney Vandersloot. As Vandersloot’s shot missed, the Aces ran to the middle of the court for an emotional celebration.
“We’ve been facing adversity all season,” said Alysha Clark. “We have some professional fighters.”
This is an Aces team that has been years in the making, and this win just solidified them as one of the best in WNBA history.