An injury to one of the core four members of the Las Vegas Aces added a darker cloud to the team’s first loss of the playoffs.
Las Vegas was ousted, 87-73, by New York in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals Sunday, Oct. 15 from the Barclays Center to hand the reigning champs their first loss of this playoff run. In addition, the Liberty picked up their second Finals win in franchise history after entering with a 1-9 all-time record.
“We’ve bounced back from adversity all year,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Things come up and you have two choices: You either stay down or you get up. I know this group will get up.”
This season, these two teams have met a total of eight times with both squads claiming four victories. Meeting number nine will be Game 4 Wednesday, Oct. 18 from the Barclays Center with tipoff slated for 5 p.m.
A win in that meeting will result in a 3-1 series win for the Aces resulting in the league’s first repeat champion in over 20 years.
“We just have to play better on the road,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “It sucks being 0-3 here but we just got to play better and that’s on us. We have to come out with a better start, weather the storm and whatever happens, happens.”
New York opened the game with the expected, “There is no tomorrow” mentality and it saw the team race to an early lead on an 8-0 run after the game was tied at 10 apiece. Amidst that run, the Liberty drilled five three-pointers in the opening 10 minutes including two by all-star guard Sabrina Ionescu.
By the end of the game, the home team had made six more threes than its opponent.
To avoid a replay of the first two games of the series, New York pushed the pedal again right out of the halftime locker room, taking a 11-point lead behind a 8-0 start. Not long after, Las Vegas would be down 14, looking for answers.
The Aces would put forth a rally in the game’s final frame, even cutting the once double-digit lead down to six but would never get closer than that. Moreover, the Liberty were not only able to regain its double-figure lead but it would eventually stretch it to 17 points.
New York handed out 28 team assists on 33 made field goals while limiting Las Vegas to 13 assists on 23 made shots the other way. Additionally, the Liberty outshot the Aces, 52-33%, this includes outscoring them, 12-2, in fast break points.
“I think we play with pace but it’s more about the ball movement and about player movement,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “There were times where yeah, we may have been sped up a little bit but I feel like if we go back and look at it, we were more stagnant than anything.”
Wilson saw the brunt of the defensive effort from New York, resulting in a 4-for-16 shooting night but still managed to put up a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double. She saw several hands all night as the Liberty racked up eight blocks to the zero put up by the Aces. Five of those blocks came from the tandem of Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart.
The duo of Jones and Stewart combined to account for 47 points on 18-of-31 from the floor with 20 rebounds and seven assists.
Plum led all scorers with 29 points on 45% from the field with five made threes. During her outing, she surpassed Hammon for second in franchise history for most playoff points scored.
Fellow guard Chelsea Gray was the final Ace in double-figures with 11 points to go along with three steals. About midway through the fourth quarter, Gray tweaked her knee while guarding the aforementioned Stewart in the paint.
She would soon leave the floor, not return and would be seen on crutches leaving the Barclays Center.