2020 WNBA Finals Preview: Aces aim to even series

WNBA Finals - Game One

Breanna Stewart (right) got the better of 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson in Game 1 of the Finals. The Aces will need a bounce-back performance from Wilson if they’re going to even the series at one game apiece. | Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

After a convincing Seattle Storm victory in Game 1, the Las Vegas Aces will need to get back to what they do best in Game 2: controlling the paint. Establishing league MVP A’ja Wilson early will go a long way for the Aces, who can’t afford to fall further behind in the series.

The Las Vegas Aces take on the Seattle Storm in Game 2 of the 2020 WNBA Finals today. The game will tip-off at approximately 3 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally on ABC.

Seattle currently leads the Finals 1-0 after a convincing 93-80 victory on Friday. Positives were everywhere for the Storm: point guard Sue Bird, on the cusp of turning 40 years old, shattered the previous Finals record for assists in a game with 16, while the tandem of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd combined to score 65 points on a smooth 26-of-41 shooting.

The Aces, meanwhile, struggled to control areas of the game they’ve been used to dominating. While they came back from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter, they were never truly able to establish themselves offensively. Las Vegas, which scored an average of 42.7 points in the paint per game in the regular season, mustered just 18 of them in Game 1 against a Seattle defense that was plenty willing to concede the outside jump shot.

Oddly enough, the Aces made the Storm pay on numerous occasions, going 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Aces’ 2-point accuracy, however, was not nearly as sharp. The team shot just 17-of-56 inside the arc, with its starting frontcourt of A’ja Wilson and Carolyn Swords going 6-of-24.

Seattle Storm v Las Vegas Aces - Game One
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
A’ja Wilson didn’t get many clean looks at the rim in Game 1, which must change if the Aces are going to score the ball efficiently.

It was a disappointing performance from Wilson, the 2020 MVP. Las Vegas head coach Bill Laimbeer said she was frustrated by not seeing her shots fall. Laimbeer cited a domino effect, saying that Wilson’s poor shooting “affected her defense” and “affected all of (the Aces’) defense.”

The Aces, then, will need to return to their bread and butter in Game 2: getting Wilson easy looks at the rim early and often and letting the athletic forward do the rest. With so few Aces being true threats to shoot the ball, it’s unlikely the Storm change much of their defensive strategy. So it will be on Las Vegas to dictate the action and not let Seattle’s frenetic scheme get Wilson and company out of sorts.

As for the Storm, there’s not much to clean up aside from 11 offensive rebounds allowed, seven of which went to Swords. Uber-efficient wing Alysha Clark shot just 2-of-13 from the field — missing all five of her 3-pointers — but that should correct itself if she continues to get open looks.

Elsewhere, if Stewart continues her dominant play it will put that much more pressure on Wilson to match it. Meanwhile, the Aces’ bench, who is without Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, will also feel pressure to keep its play error-free.

Game Information

Seattle Storm vs. Las Vegas Aces

When: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 3 p.m. ET

Where: IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL

How to watch: ABC, SNN

Keys to the matchup: The Storm’s interior defense wreaked havoc in Game 1, limiting the Aces to just 18 points in the paint. Seattle, meanwhile, scored 48 — an unacceptable differential for a Las Vegas team that lacks both the depth and the outside shooting of Seattle. Wilson must play better in Game 2 and out-duel her counterpart Stewart, who had things on cruise control for the majority of the series opener. More will also be needed from Angel McCoughtry and Jackie Young — two perimeter players who excel at getting to the rim and drawing fouls.

Storm injury report: Sami Whitcomb (out for season, personal reasons)

Aces injury report: Dearica Hamby (out for season, knee)