After an incredible WNBA season, the finals match-up is one that everyone has been predicting since before the start of the season.
The Las Vegas Aces swept the Dallas Wings, winning its series 3-0 and the New York Liberty needed an extra game to beat the Connecticut Sun, winning 3-1.
For the Aces, it is a second consecutive trip to the WNBA Finals and it’s third in four years.
Speaking after the clinching win over the Dallas Wings, Aces coach Becky Hammon said she was happy the team has put itself in a position to “win the ultimate prize, which is a championship.”
“This was a real gut check type of win. It’s hard to beat a team as talented as them in a close out game,” she said.
It was the second closest game in terms of points the Aces had played all season, winning 64-61 (the closest was a two point game, an 80-78 loss, also against the Wings).
The Aces had to come from behind in the fourth quarter, trailing 51-49 heading into it, but the Aces defence had to come up strong.
Trailing 61-53 with five minutes to go, the Aces would go on a 11-0 run to clinch it.
“It’s a real kudos to, I would say our defence down the stretch, just holding it down and giving us a chance to draw back in that game, and win it at the end,” Hammon said.
Kelsey Plum mentioned that being able to go back to the finals is something not to take for granted.
“Don’t take these experiences for granted. It’s a blessing,” she said.
“It’s so hard to get here and a lot has to go right.”
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The New York Liberty had to play four games against the Connecticut Sun to advance to the finals, losing the first game before winning three straight to secure it’s first WNBA finals appearance since 2002.
Liberty coach Sandy Brondello described her side’s game four performance as “relentlessly persistent.”
“That’s what game fours require,” she said.
“When you bring all these amazing players together, we work a lot on our culture and I think you can see where it connected.
“Because when you have connection, you have commitment and these girls are committed to each other and this program and how we want to play.”
This was backed up by Jonquel Jones when she was asked how the side regained it’s balance after the Sun took a lead in the fourth quarter.
“It’s like Sandy said. Persistence,” Jones said.
“I don’t think any of us felt like we were going to lose the game or that it was out of reach.
“Just sticking together, weathering the storm and understanding that we have a lot of weapons and different ways that we can score and also lock in defensively.”
With the Aces and Liberty having met five times this season (four regular season games and Commissioners Cup final), the Liberty hold a 3-2 lead over Vegas.
Four of those games were in August and Brondello did not downplay the importance of those meetings.
“I think it does help. I think that helped us a lot, just playing them, it was back-to-back at one stage, early in August, then late in August, just to try different things out, see what worked and what didn’t work.
“The chess match begins now. It’s a whole new series. This is the finals. This is a championship.
“I’m excited. I know Becky will be excited. All the players that will be competing will be excited.
“It’s going to be a hard fought battle, but we’re battle tested, so looking forward to that.”
The WNBA Finals begin on Sunday, October 8 at 12pm PT (Monday, October 9 at 6am AEDT) in Las Vegas, with the Aces holding home court advantage for the five game series.
The Aces announced that all three of their home games (game one and two, and game five if necessary) are sold out, with seated tickets selling out to all three games in less than 36 hours.