Las Vegas has to win one before they can win three
The Aces are one of the best teams in the WNBA, thus their expectations for the season should have been high. Coming into the playoffs as the number one seed with MVP A’ja Wilson leading the show and Las Vegas might have been thinking title or bust regarding this abbreviated 2020 season.
At least for now, that energy has to be laser-focused. There is no need to even think about winning game 4, let alone 5, until they can get through 40 minutes of mistake-free basketball. But that is easier said than done against this Seattle Storm team.
In game 2, the Aces corrected many of their opening game flaws. They held Breanna Stewart to 15 fewer points (22 is still pretty good, though). They shot efficiently with 52% from the field and 42% from three. They even out-rebounded the Storm 34-26.
The main problem, of course, is defense. While it may seem like the fault of Las Vegas, it is fair to say at this point that their defensive struggles are simply the product of an outstanding attack from Seattle.
The catalyst of all this? Sue. Bird. The ultimate game manager, Bird makes defenses look like Swiss cheese nightly and the WNBA finals is no different.
“It was always about just finding the open player and moving in a way where we create opportunities, and for me as a point guard, I’m just out there trying to find the open player” Bird said of game two. The veteran point guard doesn’t just find the open player, but makes fans wonder how players even got so open.
Sue Bird’s ability to run Seattle’s offense is paying dividends for her teammates. Through the movement of Bird and the attention that Stewart demands, Alysha Clark has been getting ample open opportunities to show out, and she is making the most of them. The defensive star got in on the scoring action with 21 points in game 2, and that type of role player production could make the Storm unbeatable in these finals.
If Las Vegas wants any chance a survival, they will need to improve two facets of their game. The first, continue to limit transition points for Seattle. The Storm thrive on easy buckets, and all Aces players who are not crashing the boards need to get back on D.
The second problem is free throws, not percentage, but actually getting to the line. Las Vegas, especially Wilson, will have to be more assertive inside drawing fouls in order to get calls. A’ja led the league in attempts during the regular season, and multiple trips to the stripe would be big for free points.
In college basketball news, Syracuse star point guard Tiana Mangakahia was officially granted an extra year of eligibility after her battle with breast cancer. It will be great for all of college basketball to have one of the best players back on the court, and don’t be surprised when she is making highlights in the WNBA in the coming seasons.