Las Vegas’ Pursuit of Historic Sweep

In the lead-up to Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals, both the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty are keenly aware of the historical implications at stake.

Following a decisive victory in Game 2, the Aces find themselves on the brink of clinching back-to-back championships, a feat last achieved by the Sparks in 2001 and 2002. Should Las Vegas secure a sweep, they would etch their name in the WNBA history books as the first team to go undefeated in the postseason, following sweeps in the opening round and semifinals.

On the flip side, the Liberty are determined to extend the series with a victory in Game 3. New York faces a historical challenge as they aim to become the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series.

Here are three key aspects to keep an eye on in Game 3 of the Finals:

  1. Aces’ Offensive Dominance
    Describing Las Vegas’ offensive performance in Game 2 as a clinic would be an understatement, considering their overwhelming dominance. The numbers tell the story vividly.

In the first quarter alone, the Aces exploded for 38 points, shooting an impressive 70.0% from the field (14 of 20) and 60.0% from beyond the arc (6 of 10). Remarkably, Las Vegas assisted on 12 of those 14 field goals.

This offensive prowess continued throughout the game, with the Aces finishing with a shooting percentage of 52.9% from the field, 44.9% from 3-point range, and a perfect 100.0% from the free-throw line. Equally notable was their teamwork, assisting on 31 of their 37 field goals, showcasing offensive comfort. Kelsey Plum (23), Jackie Young (24), and A’ja Wilson (26) all scored over 20 points in the game.

To put this performance in perspective, the Aces boast an offensive rating of a staggering 128.5 in the Finals. Another offensive display like this might seal their flawless postseason.

  1. 3-Point Shooting Woes for the Liberty
    After struggling with 3-point shooting in Game 1, the New York Liberty faced a similar challenge in Game 2.

Historically efficient from beyond the arc during the 2023 regular season, the Liberty found it difficult in the WNBA Finals, shooting 26.6% (17 of 64) from deep in the series after an 8 of 35 performance in Game 2.

Of concern is the slump affecting the starting lineup, with Sabrina Ionescu (2 of 7), Betnijah Laney (2 of 9), and Breanna Stewart (1 of 6) combining to shoot just 5 of 22 in the Game 2 loss.

While the responsibility is shared, New York will undoubtedly seek improved shooting from Ionescu, who showcased remarkable shooting during the regular season. Ionescu’s shooting not only adds to her offensive capabilities but also opens up other dynamics of her game. Simply put, the Liberty’s offense is at its best when Ionescu is firing on all cylinders.

While New York’s offensive strategy leans towards the perimeter, they don’t necessarily need a high volume of 3-pointers to win. The 2023 head-to-head series between these two teams indicates that improved efficiency is what the Liberty require to stay competitive.

  1. Identifying the X-Factors
    Though it might seem unusual to label a former No. 1 overall pick as an X-Factor, Jackie Young’s contributions often go unnoticed amid the talent-laden Las Vegas roster.

Young, a strong contender for Finals MVP, holds the mantle of an X-Factor due to the Aces’ limited depth, fielding a consistent six-player rotation throughout the postseason. Alysha Clark, honored as the Sixth Player of the Year, also fits the X-Factor description, but Young’s defensive prowess and scoring outbursts have caught many off guard. Young’s talent demands attention, yet her offensive impact often surpasses the defensive focus she receives due to her exceptionally skilled teammates.

For New York, Marine Johannes emerged as an X-Factor in Game 1 due to her shooting. Although her impact diminished in Game 2, a significant offensive contribution from Johannes could alleviate pressure on New York’s starting lineup. While the Liberty must enhance their defensive efforts, certain aspects of the Aces’ offense pose significant challenges to stop. With this in mind, an efficient performance from Johannes could be the initial step needed to keep pace with Las Vegas.