Liberty vs. Aces 2023 WNBA Finals Preview: It all comes down to this

Breanna Stewart Liberty
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

For the first time since 2002, the New York Liberty are in the WNBA Finals. In what seems to be a perfect Hollywood ending for the 2023 WNBA season, the Liberty will square off against the Las Vegas Aces, the top team in the WNBA.

The Liberty and Aces have faced each other five times this year, splitting the regular season series 2-2. Though the Liberty won the most important game to date, defeating the Aces 82-63 in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, which is the in-season tournament for the WNBA. 

This finals will mark the first time in WNBA history that two-time MVP winners will face off. For the Liberty, they’re led by 2018 and 2023 MVP Breanna Stewart, who averaged 23 points per game in the regular season. For the Aces, 2020 and 2022 MVP A’ja Wilson leads the charge, who barely trailed Stewart in points per game this season with 22.8.

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson (22) celebrates after Dallas Wings center Teaira McCowan (7) was charged with a foul during the second half Game 1 of a WNBA basketball semifinal series Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas.(Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

In their four regular season matchups against Las Vegas this year, Stewart averaged 18 points per game, shooting 36% from the field and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu has especially shown up in these games, averaging 21.3 points on 53% shooting from the field and a sterling 53% showing from beyond the arc. Ionescu’s best game came on August 6 when New York thumped Las Vegas 99-61 behind her 31 points and six threes.

While these have been the top two teams in the league all season, all regular season matchups have been decided by nine points or more. It’s clear that consistency and adjustments will be where this series is decided as no team won consecutive games in their regular season series.

Chelsea Gray has given the Liberty trouble all season, scoring in double figures in every game, including a triple-double in their August 17, 88-75 win. Gray must be a contributor for the Aces in this series as the Liberty have had trouble guarding dynamic guards all year. 

Perhaps the most interesting showdown of these finals will happen in the backcourt between Ionescu and Kelsey Plum. The two-time All-Star for Las Vegas has been key to their success against New York this year. In the two Aces’ victories, Plum has tallied 18 points per game on 54% shooting from the field. In two Vegas losses, Plum averaged 10.5 points on 27% shooting. The defensive presence from Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot, or whoever is tasked with guarding Plum must be up for the task.

As two of the top three MVP candidates get set to square off on the WNBA’s biggest stage, one thing is for sure: this will be a ca n’t-miss final that is decided by the narrowest of margins.

For more on the Liberty, visit AMNY.com