Vegas earns the #1 seed by beating Seattle 86-84

by Kevin Nesgoda

(Bradenton, FL) – It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise terrific regular season for the Seattle Storm. Despite going 18-4 with an 82% winning percentage and being the #1 team in the WNBA for roughly 95% of the regular season the Storm finished as the 2nd overall seed due to being swept by the Las Vegas Aces two games to nothing. Las Vegas was able to outlast Seattle in the 4th quarter winning the game 86-84.

Once again, the Storm were without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart who both sat out Sunday’s game against Las Vegas. It was the 2nd game Stewart missed this season and the 11th for Bird. Bird ended up missing exactly 50% of the regular season games this season after missing the entire 2019 season.

Ultimately, it was the right decision to rest their star players who are both dealing with injuries. But the team just has to hope it wasn’t a costly decision come playoff time.

The Seattle Storm valiantly battled to the very end, but just didn’t have enough offensive firepower to topple the mighty Vegas Aces. Seattle had just two players score in double figures in this game. Alysha Clark led the team at half time with 16 points, but unfortunately, she didn’t score a single point in the 2nd half. Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 30 points, including 26 points in the 2nd half. Over the final 20 minutes, Epiphanny Prince was the 2nd leading scorer for Seattle with just five points.

Natasha Howard’s streak of 11 consecutive games scoring in double figures was snapped on Sunday. Howard finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces had four players score in double figures with two of them scoring 23 points. A’ja Wilson had 23 points and seven rebounds. She was fantastic in this game, especially in the 1st half where she had 15 points. Wilson is likely to win her first MVP Award this season. Her stats are nearly identical to Breanna Stewart’s, but she played all 22 games, and her team ended the season with the best record in the league.

However, Dearica Hamby was clearly the difference maker in this game and the Aces best player on the floor. Like Wilson, she also had 23 points and seven rebounds. But she also had a career-high eight assists. She was also more efficient in her shooting 8-15 (53%) and her three-point shooting likely won the game for Las Vegas. She went 4-6 (67%) from beyond the arc. If she doesn’t hit all of those threes, the Aces don’t win this game.

It’s a bit ironic because Las Vegas is notorious for not shooting very many three-pointers. I talked a ton about that in my first game recap from when Las Vegas beat them 82-74. You can read all about that (linked above) because I did a deep dive into Las Vegas’ ability to beat teams without relying on the three-ball.

In this game, the Aces shot 8-19 (42%) from the three-point range. Las Vegas is going to be incredibly difficult to beat in the playoffs if they are shooting 40% from beyond the arc AND getting the foul line as frequently as they do.

Las Vegas has lived at the free throw line all season long. They lead the league in FTA and FTM. This game was frustratingly no different. Las Vegas had 27 free throw attempts in this game knocking down 18 of them.

The Storm did their best to draw fouls against Vegas, specifically Jewell Loyd who went 10-12 from the foul line. In total, Seattle was 15-20 from the free throw line in this game so they kept it reasonably close. But Las Vegas still had a significant advantage from the charity stripe.

Besides A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby, I thought Danielle Robinson was a big problem for the Storm. She had 13 points off the bench, six rebounds, and four assists. She also seemed to get to the basket whenever she wanted with her speed. Robinson also gave Seattle problems in their first matchup. Something to keep an eye out for if these two teams rematch in the WNBA Finals.

Kayla McBridge was the fourth player to score in double figures for Vegas with 10 points. She had five points in the 4th quarter including a clutch three-pointer and the game-winning free throws.

At times it felt like Las Vegas was dominating on the boards because of how good they are in that area, but ultimately they ended with just a small 37-35 edge in rebounding. Vegas also had a 25-19 advantage in assists. Both teams shot roughly the same for this game with Las Vegas going 30-69 (44%) and 8-19 (42%) from three-point range while Seattle went 30-73 (41%) and 9-21 (43%) from long distance. Seattle’s biggest lead in the game was 10 points and Vegas led by as many as five.

In a game that was decided by two points, it’s not terribly surprising that a lot of the stats were pretty even.

Around the W

Outside of the Storm and Aces playing for the #1 overall seed, the other two games featured teams vying for the 8th and final playoff spot.

The Dallas Wings (8-14) had to beat the New York Liberty (2-20) to keep their playoff hopes alive. It was a great back and forth game. Dallas led by 5 points at half time 41-36. But a 31-22 third quarter by New York gave the Liberty a four-point advantage heading into the 4th and final period. Dallas escaped with a win by outscoring New York 19-12 in the fourth to win the game 82-79.

Arike Ogunbowale led the way with 26 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Her Notre Dame backcourt partner Marina Mabrey had one of the best games of her career with 24 points and six rebounds. Ty Harris was the only other player to score in double figures with 10 points and led the team with five assists.

The Wings were limited to just seven active players as five of their players were injured, most notably Satou Sabally was still out with a concussion after colliding heads with Sue Bird.

New York played a pretty good game. The team just lacks talent and their players are inexperienced. The Liberty had four starters score in double figures. Jazmine Jones led her team with 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Leaonna Odom had 20 points, while Amanda Zahui B. had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Kia Nurse had a well-rounded game with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.

With the victory, all Dallas could do is watch Washington face Atlanta and hope like hell that the Dream could pull off the upset.

They did not.

The Washington Mystics (9-13) finished the season strong winning their final four games including big wins against the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. The Atlanta Dream (7-15) kept the game relatively close, especially in the first half where they trailed by just one point at half time 44-43. But over the final two quarters, the Mystics were able to outscore the Dream 41-35. The Mystics won the game 85-78.

The 2019 WNBA Champions will have an opportunity to defend their title as they are the 8th and final team to make the WNBA Playoffs. Coach Mike Thibault really did an incredible job this season considering he didn’t have Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Tina Charles, Lato
ya Sanders who all sat out the season due to medical and social justice reasons. The Mystics also lost Kristi Toliver in the off-season to free agency and one of their best players Aerial Powers to injury midway through the season.

Ariel Atkins led four Mystics players that scored in double figures. Atkins had 26 points and five assists. Myisha Hines-Allen had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Emma Meesseman added 14 points and a team-high seven assists. Kiara Leslie added 11 points and five rebounds.

Betnijah Laney, who should win the MIP (Most Improved Player) Award, led the Dream with 27 points and six rebounds. She went 11-16 field goal shooting in this game. Chennedy Carter also had a monster game with 26 points and five rebounds. However, she did foul out of this game. Carter may have won the Rookie of the Year award had she not missed two weeks (7 games) with an ankle injury.

Atlanta played just seven players total and only the two players mentioned above scored more than eight points.

After being one win away from the WNBA Finals in 2018, the Atlanta Dream have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. I wonder if we’ll see a coaching change happen in Atlanta before next season.

If you enjoy what you’ve read and you’re interested in reading the complete edition filled with player and coach quotes, additional commentary on the playoff scenarios, what it meant for Seattle to lose the #1 seed, quarter by quarter breakdowns and more click the link below!

Complete Edition: Las Vegas Aces earn the #1 seed by beating Seattle 86-84.

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