The first meeting of the so-called WNBA super teams was actually all about how great the defending champion Las Vegas Aces is.
The New York Liberty have three more encounters with the Aces, all in August. In the meantime, however, everyone in the league is watching Las Vegas, who defeated the Liberty 98-81 at Michelob Ultra Arena on Thursday in one of the biggest shows on the Strip.
“They were really on track tonight and took advantage of us in many areas,” said New York coach Sandy Brondello. “You really are like a well-oiled machine. We need to be a little more disruptive.”
“We are all capable defenders. … You just have to get involved with that side of the ball because that’s what wins championships. Getting a kick in the butt like that is a good thing in the end. What do we do?” Doing something about it – that’s the key.”
The rest of the WNBA squads fret at the mention of the “superteams” moniker, and even the Aces and Liberty don’t seem too keen on it. But it caused quite a stir at the matchup.
And while this game wasn’t very close, both teams are usually entertaining.
“I think we play a fun style [players] and the fans, as does New York,” said Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon. “Up and down – people like to play that way and shoot a lot of three-pointers.” When the ball pops and everyone is happy with their teammate’s success, I think it’s contagious.”
The Aces earned the Superteam label by bringing back their 2022 championship core and adding two-time MVP Candace Parker and another veteran with WNBA title experience, Alysha Clark. Meanwhile, the Liberty brought on board a former MVP via trade, Jonquel Jones, and another, Breanna Stewart, via free agency, which also brought them standout guard Courtney Vandersloot.
The Aces are now 14-1, their only loss coming to the second-placed Connecticut Sun, who are 12-4. The Liberty are third at 10-4.
On Thursday, every Aces starter scored double digits, led by Kelsey Plum with 18 points. The team shot 58% from the field and had 32 assists with only seven turnovers.
“It’s a group that takes care of the ball,” Hammon said. “Sometimes we can overtake ourselves, but it’s really fun to play with great passers.”
The Aces’ ability to consistently hit the best shots has taken its toll on every WNBA defense. Las Vegas leads the league with an average of 93.1 points per game.
“We had a great game plan,” said Brondello. “We didn’t pull it off that well, but that’s partly because of what they were doing, how fluid they were. They scored on us for re-throws and discrepancies in our rotations. You are always in the right place.” . They’re a scary team.”
Parker, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, has been involved in other Superteam matches such as in 2016 and 2017 when she faced the Minnesota Lynx with the Los Angeles Sparks in back-to-back WNBA tournament finals showdowns.
“I think that strengthened the WNBA,” Parker said. “Any time there’s a rivalry … you can attract attention.”
However, she and the Aces don’t value the superteam concept because they know the rest of the WNBA is trying to take them out. On Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC, they face the only team to beat them, the Sun.
“There are a lot of really good teams in this league,” Plum said. “We approach every game the same way and play the same way. We will go out and compete against each other.”