Liberty Lose Blowout Game to Aces, Fall 0-2 in WNBA Finals
In a game where nothing seemed to go their way, the New York Liberty were defeated by the Las Vegas Aces, 104-76, in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Wednesday. Las Vegas now has a 2-0 lead in the series and is one win away from its second consecutive title.
The contest marks the Liberty’s first losing streak of the season, while the Aces remain undefeated in the postseason and have not lost a game since Aug. 28.
“Vegas is playing their best basketball at the moment,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re very disappointed because we’re a way better team than we’ve shown.”
A Brutal Start for the Liberty
After losing Game 1, the Liberty needed a strong first quarter to get them going, yet the opposite happened in Game 2. The Aces hit the floor running, hitting three of their first four threes to take a 14-2 lead and prompting an early Liberty timeout. It took the Liberty five minutes to score their second basket and trailed 38-19 at the end of the quarter. The Aces’ 38 points were the most scored in a first quarter in WNBA Finals history.
Las Vegas’ league-leading scoring and shooting offense was on full display as it shot 70% from the field, including 60% from three, with every starter making one from distance. The Liberty shot just 30%, simply missing some open looks and struggling to keep the Aces’ guards in front of them on defense, allowing easy scores.
“We spoke about how bad we started in the last game in the first quarter, and the same thing happened,” Brondello said. “We talked about transition defense, and nobody was out there on anyone.”
Trying to Mount a Comeback
Needing a spark, baskets by Betnijah Laney and Jonquel Jones had the Liberty on a 7-0 run in the second quarter to cut the Aces’ lead to 15. Jones kept the Liberty in the game in the first half, consistently giving them second-chance opportunities on the offensive end.
Powered by Jones and a three by Sabrina Ionescu, the Liberty cut the Aces’ lead to single digits after a 12-2 run by New York in the final four minutes of the quarter led to a 52-44 halftime score. It took just the first two quarters for Jones to post her eighth consecutive double-double of the playoffs with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.
For the Aces, A’ja Wilson had 14 points and Kiah Stokes added eight after not attempting a shot in Game 1. Both Alysha Clark and Jackie Young had three fouls each.
Outplayed In the Second Half
The Aces began the second half in a similar way to the first quarter, going on an 8-0 run to extend their lead back to 16. While the Liberty had many open looks on shots they characteristically make, nothing came easy on the offensive end, allowing the Aces to continue to take advantage.
Brondello tested out various lineups, including playing Marine Johannès, Kayla Thornton and Stefanie Dolson simultaneously in that third quarter, but New York especially struggled defensively against the Aces’ pick and rolls, giving their guards easy layups. Las Vegas led 80-57 at the end of the third. The Liberty also were not able to take advantage of the foul trouble both Clark and Young found themselves in.
Even gaining some momentum in the second quarter, the Liberty were outscored 52-32 in the second half, not able to chip away at any of the Aces’ second-half leads with both teams eventually emptying their benches.
Similar Issues in Game 2
Courtney Vandersloot and Ionescu, who struggled in Game 1, were not able to get anything going offensively in Game 2, shooting 4-of-18, while Laney finished 4-of-15. The trio, which was successful from behind the arc during the regular season (40%), has made just 24% of its shots combined from behind the arc in the Finals.
The Aces’ trio of guards, meanwhile, had another huge game, combining for 61 points while Wilson led the way with 26. For the Liberty, Jones had 22 points and Stewart had 14. While the Liberty made it a point to limit the guards after their Game 1 loss, the results for the Aces, with big games out of their core four, were the same.
Young, who came into the series as a potential x-factor after struggling against the Liberty in the regular season, is shooting 65% (13-of-20) on contested shots in these first two Finals games.
“We have to respond,” Jones said. “Things are just a little too easy for them. We have to dig deeper, be tougher, make things harder. Come out with more grit.”
Heading to Barclays With Season On the Line
New York was outrebounded 40-35 and Las Vegas had 31 assists in Game 2, compared to 19 for New York. It was also one of the Liberty’s worst shooting performances of the season, going 22% from the three-point line. New York looked hesitant to shoot at many points throughout the game and also looked defeated in the fourth quarter. Every game this season between the Aces and Liberty has been a blowout for one of the teams, with the Aces consistently having the upper hand in these Finals.
The series will return to Brooklyn at Barclays Center for Game 3 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, also streamed on ABC. The Aces are one win away from becoming back-to-back champions, while the Liberty will look to get in the win column in front of a sold-out home crowd.
“We’re going to our home court and playing in front of our home fans,” Brondello said. “So I challenged them to be better… be pissed off with this effort, and come back and fight.”