WNBA Finals: A’ja Wilson dominates as Aces take 2-0 series lead with another rout of Liberty

The Las Vegas Aces needed to put pressure on the New York Liberty. Everyone knew the stat: The Liberty had not lost two games in a row this season.

Until Wednesday. Until the highest stakes in the league.

The Aces started rolling from the opening tip, notching another WNBA Finals rout with a wire-to-wire 104-76 win over the Liberty in Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series at a sold-out Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.

The Aces will try to close out the series and win their second straight championship, the first back-to-back titles in the WNBA since 2001-02, on Sunday in New York. No team in WNBA history has ever rallied from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series.

These teams have had plenty of lopsided games this season, but the Aces put on a clinic Wednesday night. They scored a Finals-record 38 points in the first quarter on 70% field-goal shooting (14-of-20) and 6-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc. A’ja Wilson scored 12 points in the first quarter and finished with a double-double of 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson defends New York Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot in the third quarter of Game 2 of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, on Oct. 11, 2023. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson defends New York Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot in the third quarter of Game 2 of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, on Oct. 11, 2023. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) (Ethan Miller via Getty Images)

Las Vegas’ starters tallied 95 points, and even center Kiah Stokes, who did not score in Game 1, knocked down two 3-pointers.

The Liberty made a run late in the first half, scoring 12 straight points over more than four minutes before Alysha Clark ended the Aces’ scoring drought with three seconds before the halftime break. The Aces led, 52-44, at halftime before a third-quarter burst gave them a 23-point lead heading into the final period.

“Those girls hooped today, just hooped,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said. “Their character as people, this team has had a thousand opportunities to fall apart, with distractions, adversity, injuries, you name it, we’ve been through it this year. We’ve just dug through it.”

Las Vegas ran its lead to as many as 32 points in the second half. The Aces shot 52.9% to the Liberty’s 36.1% and outrebounded New York 40-35. Hammon said she told the Aces at halftime that rebounding would be key to the second half after a little let-up in the second quarter.

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Jackie Young followed up her standout play from Game 1 with a 24-point performance in Game 2. Kelsey Plum added 23 points, including five 3-pointers.

The Aces dished out 31 assists on their 37 made field goals.

For the Liberty, Jonquel Jones tallied a double-double in the first half and her post play was key to the second-quarter run. She finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

New York’s guards continued to struggle. Courtney Vandersloot (nine points) and Sabrina Ionescu (10 points) were again ineffective, and 2023 MVP Breanna Stewart couldn’t take over the game though she had 14 points, 13 rebounds and three assists.

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