Las Vegas Aces slide by NY Liberty, bag 2nd straight WNBA title


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Las Vegas Aces slide by NY Liberty, bag 2nd straight WNBA title

CHAMPS AGAIN. Finals MVP A'ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces celebrate after defeating the New York Liberty to win the 2023 WNBA Finals.

Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

A'ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces become the first team to win back-to-back WNBA championships in over 20 years

The Las Vegas Aces became the first team in more than 20 years to repeat as WNBA champions after holding off the New York Liberty, 70-69, in Game 4 of the Finals on Wednesday, October 18.

A’ja Wilson, named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals, produced 24 points and 16 rebounds to help the Aces recover from a 12-point deficit in Brooklyn.

New York had appeared on track to keep their first Finals campaign in 21 years alive, with guard Courtney Vandersloot leading with 19 points, but an error-filled second half cost them dearly.

“We fought through so much adversity during the season and we just kept the main thing the main thing,” said Wilson.

“We cried together, prayed together, and now we popping champagne together.”

The Los Angeles Sparks were the last team to win back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001-2002.

Las Vegas was out of sync early on with starters Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes sidelined due to injury and coughed up 8 turnovers in the first quarter.

New York had a commanding lead at halftime thanks to standout performances from forward Betnijah Laney and Vandersloot but Las Vegas came alive in the third, outshooting the home team, 23-12.

A clutch jump shot from Sabrina Ionescu put New York within one point with only seconds left but their frantic last-gasp attempts to clinch victory came up short.

“Credit to Vegas, they were down, they found a way,” New York coach Sandy Brondello told reporters. “We fought but it wasn’t our best game today.”

Dubbed the league’s ‘superteams,’ the two sides had been on a collision course to the Finals, attracting enormous interest from fans in the best-of-five series.

“There were a lot of years that we weren’t so super, but you can’t build a super team in a couple of months,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who had 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.

“It takes years and I’m just really proud of this group.”

Tight game

Jackie Young posted 16 points and 7 assists, and Cayla George, in for Stokes, made three triples en route to 11 points.

After New York’s Jonquel Jones tied the game 64-64 off an offensive rebound with 2:44 to play, the Aces pushed ahead. Wilson pivoted off her defender and sank a mid-range shot to make it 70-64 with 1:27 left.

Vandersloot hit her fourth three-pointer of the night and Sabrina Ionescu made a jumper from the foul line to cut the deficit to one, but their play with eight seconds left ended with an air ball.

Vandersloot powered the Liberty with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Breanna Stewart had 10 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists but shot 3-for-17. Betnijah Laney scored 15 points and Ionescu added 13.

The Liberty capitalized on 8 Aces turnovers in the first quarter to take a 23-13 lead. The Aces drew within 31-30 with 2:33 left in the first half thanks to Kelsey Plum’s layup.

Laney caught a pass under the bucket and kicked it to Kayla Thornton in the corner for a three-pointer. That started an 8-0 run to close the half, and New York took a 39-30 edge into the locker room. Vandersloot had 12 first-half points and Laney had 11 to lead the way.

George made two three-pointers 1:01 apart in the third quarter to get her team going.

Clark scored the final 6 points of a 9-0 Aces run to close the quarter. Her layup tied it 51-51, and with 19 seconds left she earned and made two free throws that gave Las Vegas its first lead since 9-8.

Young’s 5 points helped make it 60-53 Las Vegas early in the fourth before the Liberty rattled off 7 points to tie it and set up the tight finish. – Rappler.com

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