The Las Vegas Aces are betting favorites to win the 2023 WNBA Finals over the New York Liberty. Yet recent history between the two teams suggests that maybe it should be the other way around.
The best-of-five series could go down in history as one of the best ever. A battle between two superteams, the Liberty are making their first Finals appearance since 2002, while the Aces are looking to repeat as champions.
Still, even after Las Vegas’ historic 34-6 season, New York has had them on the ropes.
The teams split their regular season meetings, 2-2, with each team winning the games on its home court. But in a fifth meeting, in the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup final on Aug. 15, the New York Liberty emerged victorious, 82-63.
The Aces’ first win against the Liberty came back in June. The next four games in their 2023 series came in August, and the Liberty held a 3-1 record in those contests, including the Commissioner’s Cup final. And it’s those four games that New York head coach Sandy Brondello thinks will make the Finals interesting.
“It helped us a lot, playing [those four times] in August,” she said. “The chess match begins now. … I’m excited, I know Becky will be excited. It’ll be a hard-fought battle, and we’re battle tested, so I look forward to that.”
It’s also, as she pointed out, the superteam “narrative” that WNBA fans have been eying from the start of the season. Regardless of which team wins the series, one could argue that as a whole, the league has won this season.
“I think it’s good. That’s the narrative everyone wanted for the start,” Brondello said. “I didn’t like the superteam thing, but these players, they’ve played great. I think it’ll be a great series, and it’s good promotion for the WNBA.”
New York will start the series with two games on the road after the Aces locked down the No. 1 overall seed. And it’ll be a testy atmosphere at Las Vegas’ Michelob Ultra Arena, with both games having already sold out. The Aces haven’t lost much at home this season, and the Liberty have electrified their city too.
Like Brondello said, it’s going to be a battle.
“This is a special group,” Aces guard Chelsea Gray said. “Our composure in our huddles and how tight and how locked in we were with each and every person, whether you’re in the game or out the game, anybody that came in knew what we were doing, especially on the defensive end. So I wouldn’t want to go to war with anybody else.”