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Liberty and Aces battle for Commissioner’s Cup in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Aces v New York Liberty Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Keep on keep keeping on. The New York Liberty took their five-game winning streak into Indianapolis in a matinee game against the Fever. The Fever gave them a healthy challenge, but the Liberty were too much for that young team as they came away with a solid win. The victory was their sixth in a row and they extended their lead over the Connecticut Sun to three games for the second seed.

The opponent tonight is one of the best basketball teams we’ve ever seen. The Las Vegas Aces have dominated the competition throughout this season and have a great chance of being the first back-to-back champion in two decades. They took one step closer to that dream by overwhelming the Atlanta Dream in the fourth quarter on Sunday evening. They’ve won three straight games.

Where to follow the game

Amazon Prime is the place to be. Tip off after 9:00 p.m. Michael Grady and Sarah Kustok have the call. Zora Stephenson is the sideline reporter. The only non-YES personnel on hand will be Baron Davis.


Han Xu is listed as questionable with rest as she has returned from competition in China.

No Candace Parker as she continues to recover from surgery. Riquna Williams is away from the team following her recent arrest on domestic violence and weapons charges. Alysha Clark missed Sunday’s game with a back injury, but she’ll be available tonight.

The game

Vegas snagged game one while New York captured game two. These teams do it again on Thursday night.

Although this game won't count in the standings, a lot is still on the line. The players on the winning team get $500,000 and their organization of choice gets $10,000. The Liberty are supporting Callen Lorde, a great non-profit in New York City that provides medical, mental health, case management, and plenty more services to LGBTQIA+ folks. At media availability on Monday, Courtney Vandersloot spoke about the importance of representing Callen Lorde:

That’s what’s up.

Unlike the past year of the NBA, I’m actually excited to discuss this MVP race! On one side stands Breanna Stewart. Stewie scored 30 first half points, which is fourth most in WNBA history

Stewie has been able to impact the game from every which way imaginable, as our guy Lucas Kaplan broke down on Twitter

On the other side is the reigning M’VP. A’ja Wilson has been on a mission this season and has powered the Aces to a sensational season. The Liberty bottled her up last time, so look for her to get after it tonight. Since that Liberty loss, Stewart is averaging around 29 points, 12 rebounds and two steals a night on 55 percent shooting from the field. Wilson and Stewart are the two best players in the game and we are in for a special night whenever they’re in the house.

The Liberty doubled up the Aces on the glass last meeting, and Vegas will need to fight a lot harder on the glass tonight. That’ll start with the Liberty’s all time leader in blocked shots, Kiah Stokes. In a story over at Andscape, Kelsey Plum spoke about the importance of Stokes on this Aces club:

“We don’t compete for a championship this year without Kiah. We don’t. I don’t care how many All-Stars we have. You need a spine to connect everything else. You can have great arms and legs but without a spine, it’s not happening for you.”

If Clark is less than 100 percent, a lot more will responsibility will fall on Stokes’ shoulders tonight. She’ll have to do battle with Jonquel Jones on the interior tonight. Since the All Star break, Jones has been havoc on foes as she’s collected eight double doubles. She’s done particular damage on the offensive glass as she leads the WNBA in o-boards since the break. When you get those extra possessions, you’ve got the defense all out of balance and can get tremendous shot opportunities for your teammates:

Without Candace Parker, the Aces are down a big and someone that can make the Liberty pay for throwing a swarm of defenders at Wilson. For Stokes and Cayla George coming off the bench, they have to ensure the Liberty don’t double them up on the glass again.

Sabrina Ionescu will look to do it one more time. Ionescu lit the Aces up to the tune of 31 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Alford Corriette noted that Sab was able to use her size to make things hard on Kelsey Plum in particular

You can always count on Plum to bounce back after a poor outing and if she’s able to bother Ionescu enough on defense while breaking the Liberty down on the other end, it’ll open things up for the rest of her Aces teammates.

Player to watch: Chelsea Gray

In a close game, you need someone who can get their own shot and score over even the toughest defense. When the stakes get higher, the margin for error gets lower. For the Aces, they have one of the best clutch time machines in the game. Gray is third in the WNBA in assists at 6.9 points and averaging a career high 15 points a night. Gray can finish in the painted area, light you up from three point range, and is a dynamo in the midrange area.

Last time out, Betnijah Laney hounded Gray all 94 feet. Laney is integral to a Liberty defense that can switch everything and wreak havoc. She helped hound Gray into five turnovers last time and was able to kickstart the Liberty’s transition attack as a result. On offense, Bee is able to punish the mismatch every time it presents itself and if the Aces go switch heavy, Laney and the Liberty are uniquely positioned to make them pay for it.

From the Vault

Rest in peace, Magoo.

More reading: Swish Appeal, The Strickland, The Local W, New York Daily News, New York Post, The Athletic. Fansided, Just Women’s Sports, SI All Knicks, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats, CBS Sports, and The Next