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Why the Aces are the WNBA’s basically unbeatable team

Jackie Young and A’ja Wilson were two of the Aces’ starters to finish in double digits against the Liberty. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the Las Vegas Aces played the New York Liberty, it was supposed to be the game of the season. Supposed to be a drag-it-out, fight to the finish. Supposed to be a preview of the WNBA Finals to come — and maybe it was.

But instead of a down-to-the-wire contest, it was a blowout. The Aces completely dominated the Liberty with a 98-81 victory. The game was billed as the “Battle of the Superteams,” but it wasn’t a battle, and there weren’t two superteams on the court. There was just one team that was much, much better than its opponent.

Which begs the question, “Can anyone beat the Aces?”

In a single game, sure. The Connecticut Sun already did it, handing the Aces their lone loss of the season. But in a playoff series, it’s hard to imagine anyone stringing together enough wins to stop Las Vegas from repeating as WNBA champions.

Let’s start with the obvious: the roster. The reason the Aces fall into the superteam category is because their starting five is that of an All-Star Game. MVP A’ja Wilson, former MVP Candace Parker, Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, Most Improved Player Jackie Young and All-WNBA First teamer Kelsey Plum. A simple list of those names is impressive, but it’s how they come together that makes Las Vegas so dominant.

The win over New York proves it’s not enough to have stars on the court. The Liberty have their own awe-inducing starting lineup with former MVPs Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, WNBA assists leader Courtney Vandersloot, former Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney and All-WNBA second-teamer Sabrina Ionescu.

Here’s the difference: New York looked like an All-Star team, and Las Vegas looked like a championship team.

The Liberty still look like a collection of stars playing on the court but not playing together, while the Aces are a unit, dripping with team chemistry.

They know how to feed the hot hand — it’s why Wilson, Plum, Young and Gray routinely rotate as the team’s leading scorer in any given game — and how to exploit defensive matchups.

Against the Liberty, Plum’s 18 points led the way, as the Aces focused on guard play and beating defenders off the dribble. Plum and Young were able to break down their defenders with quick first steps, while also using switches on screens to their advantage. The Liberty couldn’t stay in front, which created lanes for attacking and, in turn, opened up the entire offense.

In other situations, the Aces can use Wilson as their anchor and run offense through last season’s MVP. They have options, and they know when to use them.

Then there’s the defense. Becky Hammon has been very vocal about wanting more out of her team on the defensive end, and she’s getting it. The Liberty are averaging 87.5 points per game this season — second in the league behind the Aces — but Las Vegas held them below that average on Thursday night.

Individually, the Aces also contained Stewart and Ionescu to outputs well below their season averages. Stewart scores 22.1 points per game and is nearly impossible to stop, but Vegas held her to 16 points. And Ionescu reached less than half her season average of 15.3, contributing seven points in the loss.

That’s been a theme this season: The Aces hold their opponents to 77.7 points per game, which is second in the league. That, combined with their explosive offense, has Vegas winning their games by a WNBA-leading average of 15.5 points.

Of course, it is possible to beat Las Vegas. The Sun did it, with a 94-77 win in their second meeting of the season on June 4. In that game, two major statistics stand out.

First, the Sun kept Vegas off the glass. Averaging 34.8 rebounds per game this season, the Aces pulled down just 26 in that loss compared to 34 from the Sun. But rebounding isn’t actually one of the Aces’ major strengths. They are 7th out of 12 teams in that category, so keeping them off the boards doesn’t mean an automatic chance at victory. In fact, Las Vegas recorded just 27 rebounds against the Liberty.

The biggest factor in the Sun’s victory was DeWanna Bonner, who scored a career-high 41 points on 5-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Four players have scored over 40 points in a game this season — Jewell Loyd, Arike Ogunbowale, Stewart and Bonner — so it’s not exactly a common feat. The Sun needed a superhuman performance to top Las Vegas, and that’s not something that teams can conjure up on a nightly basis.

So, yeah, the Aces are beatable. But just barely.

The Liberty game only served to prove that Las Vegas is by far the best team in the WNBA, and it’s going to take a special string of games for anyone to stop the defending champs from repeating.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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