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HomeSportsStewie is back, Aces advance: Biggest takeaways from the WNBA semifinals

Stewie is back, Aces advance: Biggest takeaways from the WNBA semifinals

DALLAS — The Las Vegas Aces are one step closer to defending their title. The defending champions swept the Dallas Wings 3-0 in the semifinals and defeated Dallas 64-61 on Friday to return to the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive season and third time in four years. A’ja Wilson and her top-seeded Aces – who have yet to drop a game in the playoffs – get a well-deserved break ahead of the finals, which kick off in Las Vegas on October 8 .

“On our last defensive possession, our mentality was, ‘We’re good, we’ve got this. Let’s execute,'” Wilson said as Las Vegas ended with an 11-0 run. , and did not allow the Wings to score in the final 5 minutes. “I just feel like we’re so connected.”

But which team will the Aces face as they try to become the league’s first back-to-back champions since the 2001-02 season? The second-seeded New York Liberty lead their semifinal series 2-1 over the third-seeded Connecticut Sun after winning Game 3 92-81 on Friday in Uncasville. New York is seeking its first appearance in the WNBA Finals since 2002 and is still seeking its first title.

But the Suns won’t give up without a fight, especially at home at Mohegan Sun Arena. Also seeking its first championship, Connecticut is hoping to return to the Finals for the third time in five years, which will lead to a rematch of last year’s championship series.

We’ll break down all of Friday’s games and look ahead to Sunday’s Game 4, when the Suns host Liberty and try to avoid elimination (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App).

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Breanna Stewart has 25-point double-double in Game 3

Breanna Stewart scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help the Liberty take control of the series against the Suns.

What we learned in Liberty’s win over Suns

On Friday, Liberty led 37-16 at the end of the first quarter and shot 62.5 percent while Connecticut shot 38.9 percent. Breanna Stewart found her shot in the first game and went on to shoot over 36 percent for the first time in the postseason (11-for-19, 1-for-3 from 3-point range).

But the Suns outscored the Liberty most of the rest of the game, outscoring New York by 11 points in the final 30 minutes. If you’re Suns head coach Stephanie White, that’s an encouraging sign.

It also shows how important it is for The Sun with Rebecca Allen missing due to a non-COVID illness. Connecticut really misses her impact on the defensive end, as well as her ability to shoot 3-pointers, stretch the floor and all the intangibles she brings as a veteran.

Liberty won with the second-largest playoff advantage, but the Suns are still in this series, especially if Allen is able to play on Sunday. — Philip

What we learned when Aces eliminated Wings

Since the start of the season, Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon has repeatedly emphasized defense. Of course, the Aces can become an offensive machine like few teams in WNBA history. But Harmon knows they have to improve defensively to win another championship. Friday’s game proved that.

The Aces scored 64 points, the team’s lowest total in a playoff victory. They committed 20 turnovers, including a late pass from ever-steady point guard Chelsea Gray, who called it “throwing the ball in the ocean,” tying their most in any game. number of mistakes. Since Harmon took over as coach before last season.

But the Aces still won.

The Wings went 0-for-8 from the field in clutch situations, defined as games within five points with five minutes or less left in regulation/overtime. This is the worst clutch shot of the playoffs.

“Last year, we were a bit of an anomaly; now people are used to what we do,” Harmon said. “They’re actually running on some of our plays right now. So I know it’s going to come down to improving the defense.” — nonsense

What’s the key to Game 4 on Sunday?

A healthy Allen would go a long way for Connecticut. The Suns also need to regain their defensive dominance and draw energy from that end of the floor. Letting New York score 50 points in the paint isn’t going to solve the problem. The Suns’ ability to stop Liberty from entering the transition game remains critical.

Will New York have the energy and focus to fend off a potentially onslaught of Suns offense that could force a Game 5 deficit? There’s no doubt the Liberty will try to avoid this series going back to Brooklyn and falling into a winner-takes-all situation.

Another strong shooting night from Stewart will help, but as Game 3 showed, Betnija Laney is the Liberty’s X-factor: In New York’s five postseason games, she’s Scored at least 19 points in four games (she scored just three in a 15-point game in the 1 loss to Connecticut). Liberty was 16-2 when Lenny scored at least 14 points during the regular season. In other words, New York went with her. — Philip

What will the Aces be working on during the long break before the Finals?

As is the case between the first round and the semifinals, the Aces will have just over a week to prepare for the finals. They’ll be looking to add something offensively, especially after all the mistakes Friday.

But rest is one of the most important points. Harmon said ace center Kea Stokes “was exhausted” at the end of Friday’s game after facing the Wings’ interior.

“We’re going to stand by and watch (the Free Press and the Sun) duke it out,” Harmon said. “We’re excited to be back (in the Finals). I told them their care for each other is a separating factor. That’s something I see every day. They’re working as hard as they always have.” — nonsense

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

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