The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces mostly rolled through the regular season and navigated their respective playoff series.
Now comes the time to complete the journey with the two standout teams following through on their destiny to meet in the WNBA Finals, with Game 1 on Sunday at Las Vegas. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said. “But we’re battle-tested.” Declared “super teams” since the preseason, both have lived up to the billing. The series will mark the first time two former WNBA players are head coaches in the Finals. Becky Hammon is coach of the Aces. “Both teams are great and we’re playing at the right time,” said Las Vegas forward A’ja Wilson, who was the league’s MVP In 2022. The best-of-five series will proceed to Game 2 on Wednesday at Las Vegas before the matchup moves to the East Coast. The Liberty won three of five meetings this year, going 2-2 in regular-season games along with New York’s win in the in-season Commissioner’s Cup final. The only matchup between the teams that was decided by single digits was the most recent, with the Liberty winning 94-85 on Aug. 28 at home. “We’ll have a little bit more urgency and little bit more desperation in everything we do,” Brondello said. The Aces set the standard throughout the regular season. That’s something the Liberty respect, said New York forward Breanna Stewart, who was named the league’s MVP this season. “Everything that you saw in the regular season has only gotten better,” Stewart said. “We got better, too.” The Aces are trying to become the first back-to-back WNBA champions since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002. The Liberty have never won a championship and are making their fifth Finals appearance, but first since 2002. “We obviously have respect for our opponent and they’re the champions from last year, but we need to go in and stamp how we want to play at both ends of the floor and have confidence,” Brondello said. Brondello has a league title on her coaching resume from 2014 with the Phoenix Mercury. Despite all the offensive firepower on each team, Hammon said Las Vegas continued to make progress because “it was going to come down to improving defense.” The Liberty like how they have reacted to challenges, topping the Connecticut Sun in four games to reach the Finals. “We’re a resilient team and we’ve been battle-tested throughout the playoffs,” Liberty forward Jonquel Jones said.