Aside from the Connecticut Sun possibly playing spoiler, the current WNBA season has been conducted essentially known its champion resides in Las Vegas or Brooklyn. The Aces are putting together arguably the most impressive regular season in league history. But there’s always an asterisk. A road to a title is never just handed over. Even during the 90s Bulls runs, Michael Jordan and compatriots had to still earn it. And the main toll booth leading to a championship for the Aces goes through Broadway. Well, technically Atlantic Avenue, but the Liberty have that New York swagger to them, no matter which borough their games take place in.
The teams met for the second time this season on Sunday, and anyone expecting a highly-contested and close game between the WNBA’s two best teams was in for a rude awakening. The Liberty absolutely creamed the Aces by 38 points. Las Vegas only trailed by five at halftime. Things went horribly in the second half. It was only the Aces’ third loss of the season in 27 games, all of which didn’t take place anywhere near Paradise. Maybe Vegas coach Becky Hammon put it best: “That’s a good old-fashioned ass-whooping.”
It was the second time the teams have met this season, with Vegas beating the Liberty in Nevada on June 29 by 17 points. The odd part about Sunday’s matchup is that it’s the first of four scheduled between the teams over a 22-day period, giving the WNBA fans a preview of the likely league championship series. Mark Aug. 15, 17 and 28 on your calendars now. I doubt we’ll see many more blowouts between these two. With both teams’ star power, chemistry and high level of play, here’s your entryway into the WNBA. These two teams bring the goods every time out on the court.
If you like rooting against the juggernaut, here’s your chance to cheer on the Liberty. Think about the Golden State Warriors from 2015-16, although the Aces haven’t blown it in a championship series yet. Remember Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese from March Madness and how they set the world on fire for women’s basketball? One of the players to leverage the NCAA tournament to superstardom was Sabrina Ionescu. What team does she play for now? The Mystics! Just kidding, it’s the Liberty. And if you’re a Yankees’ fan that wants to bet on the next sure thing and be a bandwagon fan? Go for the Aces, except Las Vegas has had continued success in recent years and are the defending WNBA champions.
Vegas’ roster is stacked, even with Candace Parker out indefinitely after having surgery on her foot. Jackie Young, A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, and Chelsea Gray? That comparison to the Warriors teams from several years back rears its head again. A deep team that can shoot lights out. The Liberty aren’t close to slouches themselves. Alongside Ionescu, a team with Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart, and Courtney Vandersloot is championship-worthy, and would be favored most WNBA seasons — just not 2023. And that’s why this collision course the rest of the month will be a main-event scrap. And for anyone saying “no one pays attention,” Sunday’s game was a 11,418-person sellout, the Liberty’s best since they started playing at Barclays Center two years ago.
Every sports league has its rivalry to draw outside attention. Red Sox-Yankees, Capitals-Penguins, Barcelona-Real Madrid. Here’s the WNBA’s chance to enter that picture. The two best playing without the stakes of the postseason, for now.
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