Breanna Stewart vs. A’ja Wilson
Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, finished a distant second this year to Wilson in the MVP race, who captured the award for the first time. It will be difficult for the Storm to slow down Wilson, who has been remarkably consistent this season and has scored fewer than 17 points in just two games while scoring 20 or more 15 times. Wilson dominates in the paint and led the league in free throws attempted (151) and made (118). Defensively, she led the league in blocks (2.0) and was sixth in rebounding (8.5).
In her first year back from an Achilles injury that wiped away the 2019 season, Stewart has led Seattle to the brink of another championship. In her last trip to the WNBA Finals, the 26-year-old star averaged 25.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals to carry the Storm to a 3-0 sweep over Washington and win the Finals MVP.
Alysha Clark vs. Angel McCoughtry
The battle between Clark and McCoughtry could decide the series, considering the Aces don’t have many reliable scoring options outside of Wilson. In many ways, McCoughtry saved Las Vegas’ season with a season-high 29-point performance in a must-win Game 4 vs. No. 7 Connecticut in the WNBA semifinals on Sunday. Two days later, she tallied 20 points in a season-high 34 minutes in a series-clinching win. McCoughtry, a 10-year veteran and five-time All-Star, is seeking her first league championship after three previous trips to the WNBA Finals with the Atlanta Dream.
Clark, who finished second in the defensive player of the year voting and was a unanimous All-Defensive first team choice, is considered the league’s best perimeter defender. The Storm will also need Cark’s scoring. She ranked second in the league in three-point percentage (52.2) and had 16 points, including four three-pointers, in the regular-season finale against Las Vegas.
Jewell Loyd vs. Kayla McBride
If you’re picking a WNBA Finals MVP candidate, don’t overlook Loyd, who has the ability to take over a game and a series. The two-time All-Star guard led the Storm with 25 and 20 points respectively in Games 1 and 2 in the semifinals before dealing with back spasms and tallying just seven points in Game 3. In the 2018 WNBA Finals opener, Loyd tallied 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 3 for 3 on three-pointers. She also had five rebounds and three steals.
The Loyd-McBride matchup is a battle of former Notre Dame stars. McBride is Las Vegas’ top perimeter threat who shoots just 34.2% behind the arc.
Sue Bird vs. Danielle Robinson
Bird just might be the X-factor considering she missed both games against Las Vegas and the Aces haven’t played against her since 2018. It’s been a roller coaster for Bird due to a nagging bone bruise in her left knee that forced her to miss 11 games. The 11-time All-Star had a relatively muted performances in the first two games of the semifinals before tallying 16 points in Game 3.
Robinson gave the Storm fits in the two regular-season games while scoring 16 and 13 points off the bench. She also totaled 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Robinson moved into the starting lineup during the playoffs, where she came up big with 18 points in Game 4 of the semifinals. The Storm likes to trap with Bird, but may not be able to if Robinson gets hot offensively.
Natasha Howard vs. Carolyn Swords
Howard will spend a lot of time defending Wilson and offensively, she’ll have to contest with Swords, the former Storm backup center who came out of retirement this summer to help the Aces. At 6-6 and 215 pounds, Swords is the biggest starter and she used her size to wear down Connecticut in the semifinals. Still, Howard, the 2019 defensive player of the year, excels at using her quickness against bigger opponents and had three double-double performances during the regular season.
Player, Ht., PPG, RPG, APG
G Sue Bird, 5-10, 9.9, 1.7, 5.2
G Jewell Loyd, 5-10, 15.5, 2.4, 3.2
G Alysha Clark, 5-11, 10.0, 4.2, 2.7
F Natasha Howard, 6-2, 9.5, 4.7, 1.0
F Breanna Stewart, 6-4, 19.7, 8.3, 3.6
Player, Ht., PPG, RPG, APG
G Danielle Robinson, 5-7, 7.4, 2.4, 3.3
G Kayla McBride, 5-11, 12.5, 2.3, 2.4
F Angel McCoughtry, 6-0, 14.4, 5.1, 2.5
F A’ja Wilson, 6-3, 20.5, 8.5, 2.0
C Carolyn Swords, 6-5, 2.9, 4.6, 0.9
STORM WNBA FINALS TEAMS: 2020, 2018, 2010 2004
Record 18-4 26-8 28-6 20-14
Ppg. 87.5 87.2 81.8 71.7
O-ppg. 76.0 79.7 73.9 66.6
Rpg. 34.4 35.4 36.3 31.1
Apg. 21.9 21.2 18.7 16.2
Spg. 10.0 7.8 8.3 8.9
Bpg. 4.0 4.4 3.8 3.9
FG% 47.0 46.8 44.5 43.1
3-FG% 39.4 37.6 36.9 38.0
FT% 81.7 80.7 79.3 77.5
WNBA FINALS SCHEDULE:
Game 1 —Friday, 4 p.m. PT, ESPN2
Game 2 —Sunday, noon PT, ABC
Game 3 — Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
Game 4* —Thursday, 4 p.m. PT, ESPN2
Game 5* —Sunday, October 1, noon PT, ABC
* If necessary
ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN SEATTLE AND LAS VEGAS
Seattle leads 26-15.
The teams have never met in the postseason.
Aces 82, Storm 74
Las Vegas broke the game open in the second quarter while outscoring Seattle 26-11 and taking a 45-29 lead into halftime. The Aces stretched their lead to 21 points (56-35) midway in the third before the Storm rallied in the fourth to make it close at the end. Breanna Stewart tallied 29 points and 18 rebounds – both game highs – while A’ja Wilson finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for Las Vegas.
Aces 86, Storm 84
Seattle led 79-74, but was outscored 12-5 in the final five minutes to lose the regular-season finale and the No. 1 seed. Sue Bird (knee) missed her second straight game against the Aces and Stewart sat out due to a foot injury. Jewell Loyd rebounded from a season-low three points in her last outing against Las Vegas and scored 30 points. However, the Aces received 23 points each from Wilson and backup guard Dearica Hamby.