The short, strange 2020 WNBA season has reached the Finals, and on Friday night, the Las Vegas Aces will meet the Seattle Storm in Game 1 of this long-awaited matchup. These were the two best teams all season, and now we'll get a chance to see which one is truly No. 1.
Vegas went straight through to the semifinals as a result of finishing with the No. 1 seed, and the Aces' reward was the red-hot Connecticut Sun. Alyssa Thomas and Co. made life miserable for the Aces, who were down 1-0 and 2-1 in the best-of-five series, before coming back to win. Now, they're in position to try and win their first title in franchise history.
Seattle also got a bye to the semis, where it met the Minnesota Lynx. With Sylvia Fowles sidelined due to a calf injury, the Storm had little trouble with the Lynx, sweeping them in three games, with the last two wins coming by double digits. If they can beat the Aces, the Storm will win their second title in three seasons, and tie the Lynx and now-defunct Houston Comets for the most titles in WNBA history with four.
(1) Aces vs. (2) Storm
All times Eastern
- Game 1: Friday, Oct. 2, 7 p.m. | ESPN 2
- Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 4, 3 p.m. | ABC
- Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m. | ESPN
- Game 4: Thursday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m. | ESPN 2*
- Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, 3 p.m. | ABC*
Two best teams, two best players
We don't always get the two best teams in the Finals, especially in the WNBA playoffs, which feature multiple single-elimination rounds and best-of-five series. But this time, we did. And what's more, we'll also get to see the two best players in the league go head-to-head.
It didn't take long for the Aces and Storm to establish themselves as the teams to beat this season, and once they did, no one could knock them off their spots. They finished with identical 18-4 records -- the Aces got the No. 1 seed by winning the tiebreaker -- that earned them byes to the semifinals, and had the two best offenses, defenses and net ratings. For a clear idea of their superiority, consider that 13 of the Storm's 18 wins came by double digits, while 10 of the Aces' 18 wins did.
As for the individual side of things, it was a similar story in that A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart were really the only two serious candidates for MVP. Wilson ended up running away with the honor with a strong second half, but Stewart finished as the runner-up in the voting. Statistically, their profiles are almost identical as they each finished top-10 in scoring, rebounding and blocks, though Stewart is a more versatile player, while Wilson is more dominant on the block.
These are the two best teams in the league, so it won't simply come down to Wilson vs. Stewart, but it is a treat that we get to see two superstars go at it for five games.
No Hamby for Aces
Health is a factor every postseason, and unfortunately for the Aces, they're suffering the worst end of it right now. They've been without Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum all season, and now the back-to-back Sixth Woman of the Year, Dearica Hamby, is also sidelined.
Hamby suffered a knee injury in the semifinals against the Sun, and didn't play in the last two games of that series. But while the Aces were able to manage without her against Connecticut, they won't have such an easy time doing so against Seattle. Though she came off the bench all season, Hamby played starter-level minutes, and was by far their third-best player behind Wilson and Angel McCoughtry.
She put up career-highs across the board this season, averaging 13 points, 7.1 rebounds, three assists and 1.7 steals per game, and was their most versatile forward. Her absence is problematic for Vegas no matter what, but in particular against a Storm team that has one of the most athletic and skilled frontcourts in the league.
History on the line
One way or another, history is going to be made at the conclusion of this series.
The Aces are one of five active teams without a title, and have made it to the Finals for just the second time in franchise history. In their only other trip, back in 2008 when they were still playing in San Antonio, they were swept in three games by the Detroit Shock. Coincidentally, head coach Bill Laimbeer was on the sidelines for Detroit in that series.
As for the Storm, they're looking for history in the opposite way. Seattle has been to the Finals three times, and has three trophies to show for it. If they defeat the Aces, they'll tie the Minnesota Lynx and now-defunct Houston Comets for the most titles in league history with four. They'll also maintain their tie with the Comets for the best winning percentage in Finals appearances.