The No. 1 Las Vegas Aces and No. 4 Dallas Wings face off in their best-of-five series, with the winner advancing to the WNBA Finals. The Aces beat the Wings three out of four games during the regular season.
July 5: Aces win 89-82 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
July 7: Wings win 80-78 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas
July 30: Aces win 104-91 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
August 8: Aces win 104-84 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas
Game 1: Sunday, September 24, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2) at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 2: Tuesday, September 26, 10:00 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 3: Friday, September 29, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, October 1, time TBD (TBD) at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, October 3, time TBD (ESPNU, NBA TV, WNBA League Pass) at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Before the series begins in Las Vegas, we turn to Winsidr reporters Candace Pedraza and Owen Pence to preview the matchup.
Matchups We Can’t Wait to Watch
Candace: After such a dominant performance from Teaira McCowan in Game Two against the Atlanta Dream, I’m wondering how the Wings plan on attacking the Aces, and, specifically, how they expect to deal with a rested A’ja Wilson. It’s easy to say they will turn up their defense, but their defensive rating (DRTG) has slipped since the All-Star break, from 99.3 to 107.7.
Enter McCowan. The center has been a force all season long, even finding her footing again after injury. She had a huge performance against the Aces back in July, putting up 25 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block. In their regular season series, she averaged 13.2 points per game (PPG), 9.7 rebounds per game (RPG), and 1.2 assists per game (APG). When defending Wilson, McCowan has stayed grounded, while also keeping an eye on Kiah Stokes, who can easily seal her off in the paint.
Owen: How does Las Vegas plan on defending Satou Sabally? Recently named the league’s Most Improved Player, Sabally has had her best season as a pro and is a lock to make one of the two All-WNBA teams. Dallas trots out the biggest starting lineup in the W, with Sabally as the nominal “small forward” even though she’s bigger than many who play the 4. Because Sabally and power forward Natasha Howard are capable of knocking down threes, Dallas can afford to play larger without sacrificing too much spacing.
The Aces have two stellar guard/wing defenders in Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young. How those two are deployed on Sabally and Arike Ogunbowale will be fascinating to watch. Aces head coach Becky Hammon has been known to throw zone defenses at the opposition, which could be a useful but risky strategy in this series. The upside? It would force the Wings to make shots (not their biggest strength) and ease some of the burden on Gray and/or Young, neither of whom are as tall as Sabally. The downside? Dallas feasts on the offensive glass, and zone defense makes it tougher for the defense to box out.
My hope is that—in man-to-man sets—we see Young assigned to Sabally despite being around four inches shorter. Young has met every challenge she’s faced. This would be a big test.
Candace: Sabally is one of two X factors for Dallas, the other being the play of Ogunbowale. Sabally had a solid first round, averaging 22.5 PPG along with 4.5 RPG and 5 APG. She also racked up four steals in Game One, aiding Ogunbowale and company on the defensive end. If Sabally is able to maintain her production over this longer series against the Aces, it’ll be a true battle between her and Wilson. We can assume that Wilson will be getting the assignment on defense at both forward and center positions, and in terms of greater threat on offense, Sabally certainly takes priority over McCowan or Howard. Look to Sabally to use her footwork and ability to find a screen to her advantage, especially if head coach Latricia Trammel uses her bigs in force against a lengthy Aces starting unit.
Owen: To me, Stokes is the biggest X factor for Las Vegas in the semifinals. The Aces know that they’ll get All-Star level play from Wilson, Young, Gray, and Kelsey Plum on a game-to-game basis. Alysha Clark just won the Sixth Player of the Year award and is often the fifth player in Vegas’ most effective closing lineup. But with the Wings’ aforementioned size, Stokes will be put to the test and may see more crunch time minutes. Stokes is a very effective rebounder and a strong defender. With McCowan, Howard, Sabally, Kalani Brown, and Awak Kuier firmly in Dallas’ rotation, the Aces are at a major disadvantage (not something we get a chance to say very often) when it comes to frontcourt depth. Of course, Wilson is the best player in the entire series and largely makes up for that lack of depth, but Stokes will be heavily relied upon and must step up for the Aces to advance.
Owen: A’ja Wilson will have a 40-point, 10-rebound game.
Book it. The two-time MVP will rise to the challenge posed by Dallas’ elite frontcourt and respond with her best basketball. With Gray, Young, and Plum pressuring the Wings’ perimeter defenders, Dallas will be vulnerable to Wilson catching passes and exploding towards the rim.
Candace: This series will go the full five games.
I do think that the Aces have the edge in this matchup, but it will be extremely competitive. Dallas is streaky, and the sweep of Atlanta has to have boosted their confidence. I can definitely see them coming out much better on defense and playing very physical postseason basketball, throwing the Aces for a bit of a loop.
Stats as of September 22, 2023 and, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of WNBA.com