Aces vs. Liberty score: Las Vegas outlasts New York in thrilling Game 4 to clinch back-to-back WNBA titles
The Aces are the first team to repeat as champions in two decades
The Las Vegas Aces are WNBA champions, again. Despite missing star point guard Chelsea Gray and starting center Kiah Stokes, the Aces battled their way to a thrilling title-clinching 70-69 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night. With the win, they are the first team since the 2001-2002 Los Angeles Sparks to go back-to-back. A'ja Wilson was named Finals MVP, her first career win.
As expected, the Liberty jumped out to an early double-digit lead against the shorthanded Aces, and controlled the majority of the first 25 minutes. But towards the end of the third quarter, the Aces went on a big run to take the lead going into the fourth, and carried that momentum into the final frame.
In fact, they led by as much as seven before the Liberty clawed their way back into the game and tied things up with 2:44 to play on a Jonquel Jones putback. But the Aces refused to buckle to the pressure and ripped off a 6-0 run. When Wilson put them up 70-64 with 1:27 remaining, it seemed certain they would hold on. Not so much, as it turned out.
Courtney Vandersloot buried a 3-pointer out of the timeout, then stole the ball from Kelsey Plum, which led to a jumper by Sabrina Ionescu. In the blink of an eye, the Liberty had cut the deficit to one at 70-69. And after another stop on the other end, had the ball with a chance to win the game.
But the Aces refused to let this one slip away. Alysha Clark prevented Breanna Stewart from getting to the basket, and Jackie Young arrived to force the ball out of the league MVP's hands. Stewart kicked it out to Betnijah Laney, who spotted Courtney Vandersloot open in the corner, but could not deliver a precise pass. Vandersloot was able to eventually gather and get a shot off, but it was rushed and nowhere close.
The Aces were heavy underdogs in this game and probably should have lost, but their toughness and championship experience proved to be the difference-maker down the stretch. Wilson finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds in another marvelous display, while Jackie Young added 16 points and seven assists, including some huge fourth-quarter buckets. Even Cayla George, who had played 17 minutes in the postseason prior to Game 4, chipped in with three 3-pointers and 11 points.
For the Liberty, this is a heartbreaking end to such an exciting season. They had countless chances to run away with this game, but missed open shot after open shot, including half a dozen layups. Stewart finished a shockingly poor postseason by shooting 3-of-17 from the field. As a team, they shot 36.1% and turned the ball over 13 times.
Liberty with the ball and a chance to win
Wow! The Liberty get a much needed stop and now have the ball with a chance to win it in the final 10 seconds. Incredible ending here.
Liberty staying alive
The Aces went up by six with just over a minute to play, and this one seemed over. But then Courtney Vandersloot hit a 3 and got a steal, which led to a Sabrina Ionescu bucket. Now it's suddenly a one-point game with 41 seconds left. Can the Liberty somehow pull this one out?
All tied up
The Liberty have finally gotten a few shots to go down and have tied things up at 62-62 as we head into the final five minutes. This is going to be on A'ja Wilson for the Aces down the stretch. They have no right to win this game, but if they get five great minutes from her, they can.
Liberty trying to make a comeback
All of a sudden it's the Liberty trying to make a comeback. The Aces built their lead up to seven and were a missed 3 away from going up double digits. But the Liberty just got a layup from Betnijah Laney and a much-needed 3-pointer from Sabrina Ionescu to make it a two-point game again. Should be a thrilling 6:34 left.
Third quarter: Aces 53 -- Liberty 51
Wow. A stunning turnaround at the end of the third quarter, as the Aces storm in front to take a two-point lead going into the fourth. A'ja Wilson and Alysha Clark led the way in the last few minutes, while the Liberty continue to miss everything, including more wide open layups. The Liberty should be running away with this, but they aren't. Now, all the Aces need are 10 good minutes from Wilson and they can clinch back-to-back titles.
George is firing at will
The Liberty are happy to ignore Cayla George at the 3-point line, and the Australian has not been shy about firing away. She's now launched 10 3s, making three of them, and has a team-high 11 points. On the one hand, she does have to shoot some of these looks, but, at the same time, it's strange to see her have the most shots on the team. So far, she's hit just enough to help the Aces hang around.
Halftime: Liberty 39 -- Aces 30
The Aces cut the deficit down to one, but the Liberty closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run to create some breathing room heading into the break. As expected, the shorthanded Aces have had trouble on offense, but the Liberty haven't been much better. Both teams have turned it over a bunch, and are shooting under 40%. The Liberty, though, have had much better looks.
Courtney Vandersloot leads all scorers with 12 points, and has also dished out three assists, while Betnijah Laney has added 11. A'ja Wilson leads the Aces with nine points and eight rebounds.