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WNBA Finals: Las Vegas vs. Seattle

For the second time in as many years and for the fourth time in the last five years, the WNBA Finals will feature the league’s top-two teams.

The Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm both finished the regular season with 18-4 records with both teams finishing first and second in offensive and defensive efficiency this year.

Furthermore, these two teams are responsible for the players that finished first and second in Most Valuable Player voting.

During the regular season, Vegas swept the season series away from Seattle.

On August 22, the Aces beat the Storm by eight points, who were playing without all-star guard Sue Bird.

Forward A’ja Wilson scored 23 points, pulled in 14 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Veteran Angel McCoughtry added 13 points of her own.

Seattle was led by the 29 points of forward Breanna Stewart.

Bird and Stewart would miss the second meeting between the two teams as Vegas came away with a two-point win.

Wilson and forward Dearica Hamby scored 23 points as the Aces converted 30 field goals on 25 assists.

Guard Jewell Loyd led the way for the Storm with 30 points.

Wilson was named the MVP of the regular season after posting 20.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting, which was a career-high.

She also posted career-highs in minutes per game (31.7), rebounds per game (8.5), steals per game (1.2) and blocks per game (2.0) in her third season.

Against Connecticut in the semifinals, Wilson upped her scoring (21.8 ppg) and rebounding output (10.4 rpg).

Last year in the playoffs, Wilson averaged a little over 13 points per game and just under eight rebounds per contest.

This year’s runner-up for the MVP award was Seattle’s Stewart.

The four-year pro missed all of last season with an achilles injury. When she was last seen in the postseason she was named the Finals MVP after winning her first title in 2018.

She was also named MVP for the regular season that year.

This season, Stewart is averaging 19.7 ppg, 3.6 apg and 1.7 spg on a career-low 30.4 minutes per game.

The assist-per game and steals per game mark are new career-highs for Stewart.

She scored 31 points in the closeout game of the Minnesota Lynx.

McCoughtry, who played in one game last season due to injury, has been the addition of leadership this young Aces team needed.

Averaging 14.4 ppg and 5.1 rpg this season, the former Rookie of the Year and five-time all star is a career 18.8 point per game scorer.

After averaging 10.3 ppg on 10-of-33 from the field, the former No. 1 overall pick upped her scoring to 24.5 ppg in the back-to-back wins to advance to the Finals.

McCoughtry holds the record for most points in a Finals game with 38 and the most points in a playoff game overall with 42 points.

Despite holding these records, McCoughtry is 0-3 in the Finals with three sweeps.

Future Hall-of-Famer Bird, has spent her entire 17-year career with Seattle and is the owner of four Olympic gold medals and three WNBA championships.

In addition, she is undefeated in the Finals at 3-0 overall with a 8-1 win-loss record. She was a part of the Storm team that swept McCoughtry’s Atlanta Dream in 2010.

For the first time in her career, Bird is averaging single-digits in scoring at 9.8 ppg but is shooting a career-high 49 percent from the field.

She’s also handing out over five assists a game.

At this point of the season, whichever teams wins it all may have to rely on their own x-factor.

Loyd serves as that for Seattle as she is averaging 15.5 ppg on 39 percent from three-point range this season.

She scored a career-high 35 points against Indiana in late August.

On the other side, guard Jackie Young may prove to be the x-factor for Vegas.

This season, she has upped her scoring from 6.6 in her rookie year to 11.0 ppg in her sophomore year.

Last season, she scored in double figures seven times but failed to cross the 20-point threshold in any game.

On 12 different occasions, Young scored in double digits, crossing the 20-point mark two times.

Vegas was already playing this season without guard Kelsey Plum (achilles) and center Liz Cambage (medical exemption).

Now the team will be without back-to-back Sixth Woman of the Year award winner, Dearica Hamby, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in game three of the semifinals.

Hamby was averaging a career-high 13 points this season.

Between Plum, Cambage and Hamby, that’s 35 combined points per game in 2019.

Seattle head coach Gary Kloppenburg is coaching in his first Finals after taking over for Dan Hughes who opted-out of the season due to medical reasons.

Kloppenburg coached as an assistant for Seattle from 2000-2002 before leaving for stints with Phoenix, Tulsa (at the time), Los Angeles and Indiana. He also spent time with the Charlotte franchise in the National Basketball Association.

He returned to the team in 2017 and won his first title with the franchise in 2018.

Vegas head coach Bill Laimbeer is coaching in his fifth Finals, looking for his fourth title.

He won three titles with the Detroit Shock and has won Coach of the Year twice.

As a player, Laimbeer was a four-time all star and two-time champion with the Detroit Pistons.

The Aces are making their second Finals appearance in 11 chances and the first under it’s Las Vegas label.

The franchise lost its only WNBA Finals appearance to Laimbeer’s Shock in 2008.

The Storm are chasing their fourth title after making its 16th appearance in the playoffs.

Game one of the WNBA Finals takes place from the IMG Academy bubble in Florida Friday, October 2.

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