We break down every matchup that will decide the best-of-five WNBA semifinals between the No. 4 seeded Seattle Storm and No. 1 seeded Las Vegas Aces.
Game 1 is Sunday and Game 2 is Wednesday at Michelob Ultra Arena. Seattle hosts Game 3 on Sept. 4 and (if needed) Game 4 on Sept. 6. And if necessary, Game 5 will be played in Las Vegas.
(Spoiler alert: We’re forecasting an epic five-game series that will be one for the history books.)
Here’s everything you need to know heading into Sunday’s 1 p.m. series opener on ESPN:
Sue Bird vs. Jackie Young
Synopsis: Bird’s brilliance isn’t always reflected in the statistics because the 41-year-old point guard who has played in a league record 636 WNBA regular-season and playoff games is able to impact the game with her command of the offense and knowledge of opposing defensive schemes. The 24-year-old Young is often overlooked on a loaded Aces team, but the first-time WNBA All-Star had a breakout year and is Las Vegas’ third-leading scorer in the playoffs at 15.5 ppg. while shooting 57.9% (11 of 19) from the field and 71.4% (5 of 7) on 3-pointers.
Edge: Las Vegas
Jewell Loyd vs. Kelsey Plum
Synopsis: The WNBA All-Stars are two of the deadliest shot makers in the WNBA. Plum, the former Washington Huskies star, tallied a career-high 113 3-pointers, which led the league. She also ranked second in scoring (20.2 ppg.). Meanwhile, Loyd’s personal-best 84 three-pointers ranked fourth in the WNBA. Seattle has a slight advantage here considering Loyd is a better defender. Plus, recency bias gives her the edge considering she tallied 38 points and eight 3-pointers — both career highs — in their last meeting.
Gabby Williams vs. Chelsea Gray
Synopsis: No one played better than Gray in the first round of the playoffs. She’s tied for the postseason lead with 22.0 ppg. while shooting 75% (15 of 20) and averaging 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Williams has been largely productive in the playoffs (13.0 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 3.0 apg. And 1.5 spg.), but her four games against Las Vegas this year have been sporadic. Plus, Williams suffered a concussion on Sunday and missed Wednesday’s practice while in the league’s protocols.
Edge: Las Vegas
Breanna Stewart vs. A’ja Wilson
Synopsis: Either Stewart or Wilson will win their second WNBA MVP this year, but it would be nice if the league could recall ballots and recast votes after the series, which could settle the debate on who is the best player in the league. In four meetings, they each have scored 91 points. However, Wilson has more rebounds (47-40), assists (11-9) and blocks (7-3) and is shooting a higher percentage from the floor (52.9%-43.1%) and 3-pointers (50%-45.5%).
Edge: Las Vegas
Tina Charles vs. Kiah Stokes
Synopsis: A pair of former Connecticut Huskies centers and New York Liberty teammates (2015-19) highlight the battle of the bigs beneath the basket. In the past two meetings, Charles averaged 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds against Stokes (4.5 ppg. and 6.0 rpg.) to win their individual matchup.
Synopsis: Many WNBA observers surmised the Aces would eventually hit a wall because they lean heavily on their starters while the bench ranked last in scoring (12.9 ppg.) in the regular season. But that never happened even after Dearica Hamby’s injury elevated Stokes and thinned the reserves, which essentially comprises Riquna Williams and Iliana Rupert. Seattle has more — and seemingly better — options with Ezi Magbegor, Stephanie Talbot, Briann January and Epiphanny Prince, who averaged 18.4 ppg. during the regular season.
Noelle Quinn vs. Becky Hammon
Synopsis: Two of the WNBA’s youngest and most promising coaches match wits for the first time in the postseason. The 37-year-old Quinn has a 2-1 playoff record while the 45-year-old Hammon is 2-0 in the postseason as a rookie coach. Considering their postseason inexperience, we give the slight nod to Quinn, who has longtime coach Pokey Chatman on her staff as well as Bird, who has helped four Storm coaches to WNBA titles.
Synopsis: These teams’ only other meeting in the playoffs was the 2020 WNBA Finals and Seattle had little trouble sweeping Las Vegas 3-0 at the IMG Academy, in Bradenton, Fla. The Aces have incentive and momentum, including six straight wins and a 3-1 record versus Seattle this year. This series has lots of 2018 vibes for Seattle, which was pushed to the limit by the Phoenix Mercury before claiming a memorable 94-84 win in Game 5 of their semifinal series. However, this time the Storm don’t have home-court advantage and they haven’t won in Las Vegas since 2018.
Edge: Las Vegas in five
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