Repeat for Las Vegas Aces as they beat the New York Liberty 70-69 for the 2023 WNBA Championship
With a heroic effort as two starters sat out due to injury, the Las Vegas Aces beat the New York Liberty 70-69 in a closely fought game four to win the 2023 WNBA championship Wednesday night in Brooklyn. The win sealed back-to-back titles for the franchise. Forward A’ja Wilson earned the Finals MVP honor for the second straight season.
The Aces clawed back from a 39-30 halftime deficit to blaze into the third quarter and outscore the Liberty 23-12 in the third stanza. During a tense fourth period, Las Vegas outlasted the Liberty even after New York evened up the game. It went down to the last 8.1 seconds when the Aces led by a point and New York took a timeout. Liberty forward Breanna Stewart, this season’s MVP, failed to get off a shot under the defensive pressure of Aces forward Alysha Clark.
New York lost the first two games of the best-of-five series at Las Vegas but roared back to take game three at Barclays Center. However, in game four they lost on their home court cutting short a chance at a game five back in Nevada.
Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello addressed the difficulty of winning late in the series: “It’s tough to win a fourth…credit to Vegas. They were down. They found a way…we fought but it wasn’t our best game today.”
The Aces had a tumultuous season and in the Finals lost two key players to injuries for the fourth contest: point guard Chelsea Gray and center Kiah Stokes.
“We went from darling to villain real quick,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said of the overall season. “We had our good names slandered and all these women did was lock in together.”
Wilson was more direct in her assessment of how she and her teammates felt about being underestimated.
“This shit wasn’t easy at all. A lot of people counted us out…as back-to-back champions. That shit fueled us. We read it. We see it…We kept our foot on the gas!”
Wilson led all scorers, tallying a double-double of 24 points and 16 rebounds. Jackie Young scored 16 points and dished out seven assists. Cayla Goerge contributed 11 points and four rebounds while Alysha Clark added 10 points and eight rebounds.
The season MVP Breanna Stewart underperformed scoring-wise, shooting 3-of-17 from the floor to finish with 10 points, However, she did corral 14 rebounds and had five assists. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot paced the Liberty in scoring 19 points along with seven rebounds and six assists. Betnijah Laney added 15 points plus four rebounds and four assists. Sabrina Ionescu was also in double figures with 13 points. Jonquel Jones pulled down 11 rebounds to go with six points.
The Aces will celebrate their victory with hometown fans in a parade Monday night in Las Vegas.