Aces

Upping the Ante: Aces to Face True Test

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When the lights are shining the brightest, and the crowds are cheering the loudest, and the tension is at its highest, champions are forged. We will learn after Sunday if the pressure forges the Las Vegas Aces into legitimate title contenders, or if it will relegate them to being playoff disappointments. 

Let me be clear: the Aces can lose on Sunday and still win the series. But HOW they play, win or lose, will decide which team will be moving on to the Finals.  

Las Vegas has not faced true adversity all season long. They’ve dealt with injuries, sure. So has everyone else. They’ve dealt with tough losses, sure. So has everyone else. They lost the first game at home in this series. They won the second game thanks to A’ja Wilson’s MVP-level performance. 

Now they walk into Seattle, one of the toughest environments in the league, without the home-court advantage they worked all season for. Seattle is more decorated, more playoff-tested, and now they’re playing in front of their home fans. A lot is working against the Aces. But you don’t make the Finals, and you certainly don’t become champions, without overcoming adversity. And here it is. Let’s see if they can do it. 

But how? 

Wilson Outplays Stewart 

In Game 1, Breanna Stewart was clearly the better player. Wilson had a rough game, shooting inefficiently and getting to the free throw line only twice. Seattle won the game. 

In Game 2, we got an MVP showdown. Stewart was excellent again. With 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks, she was dominant. She made tough shot after tough shot. Vegas quickly ran out of options to slow her down.  

But Wilson was even more excellent: 33 points (on a higher FG%), 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks. She did not commit a single turnover, nor did she did not commit a single personal foul. She went to the free throw line 11 times. It was possibly the most important performance of her career, and her team won because of it.  

As basketball fans, we’re in for a treat over the next few games as we watch these two titans battle it out for a spot in the Finals. We know Stewart will bring her A-game. To win this series, especially considering Vegas will need to win one of these two games on the road, they’ll need Wilson to bring her A+-game. It’s the only way to cancel out Stewart’s dominance. 

The Point Gawd Continues on Her Tear 

Per Aces PR, Gray is shooting the highest field goal percentage in WNBA playoff history, making 66.667% of her shots. Anytime the Aces have needed a bucket in these playoffs, it seems the ball finds Chelsea Gray (and soon after, finds the bottom of the net).  

I am running out of ways to describe how incredible Gray has been since the All-Star break. She is Vegas’ emotional leader, on and off the court. She knows exactly when and where to take her shots, she’s perhaps the best passer in the league, and she plays with enough passion to motivate an entire arena. Simply put, the Aces would not be where they are without Gray. 

It is unreasonable to expect Gray to continue at this other-worldly level of production. But if she can just hold onto that bit of magic, making big shots when needed and leading her group on and off the floor, the Aces will always have a shot to win.  

Vegas Contains Gold Mamba

In Vegas-Seattle matchups this year (regular season and playoffs), the Aces are 3-0 when holding Jewell Loyd to under 20 points. When Loyd scores over 20, Vegas is 1-2.  

Stewart will always score a lot. Tina Charles usually will too. Vegas can handle that, and counter with multiple high scorers of their own. But when they allow Loyd to go off, it usually doesn’t end well. Vegas will need to keep their speed up their defensive rotations, send traps, and stack the paint when she drives.  

There’s not much Vegas can do with Stewart or Charles. If they focus on slowing down Loyd, however, they give themselves a fairly good chance to outscore the Storm.  

Leaving this series with a win will not be easy. It’s not supposed to be. The test continues on Sunday. 

*All numbers come from game notes provided by Aces PR*

About Jack Levenberg

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