Welcome to the WNBA Finals! We did it, folks. Tonight, the number two seeded Las Vegas Aces take on the number one seeded Seattle Storm in Game 1, airing on ESPN2.
The Storm got here by sweeping the Minnesota Lynx, while the Aces went five games with the Sun. The Sun’s defense nearly shut down Vegas’ offense, but the Sun struggled to make shots and ultimately, you can’t win a game if you don’t score points. So here we are.
Seattle is a well-oiled machine and, judging by how they looked in the semis, they’re going to be hard to beat, especially with Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart locked in together. But the Aces have MVP A’ja Wilson and vet Angel McCoughtry who has just as much playoff experience as Bird.
Instead of a standard matchup preview, because that’s not really my thing, I thought we’d recap some of the out players on each team and what to watch for from each of them.
The Storm have Sue Bird. The last time the Storm were in the Finals, in 2018, they won. That was when we had masked Sue, doing superhero shit. She’s been in the WNBA since 2003 and any season now could be her last. She’s been plagued by knee injuries the last two years, but when she’s on the court she brings a quiet confidence and steady leadership to her team. Speaking of Sue Bird, maybe you’ve heard of her girlfriend?
Breanna Stewart returned from an Achilles injury this season looking like no time at all had passed. Her on-court chemistry with Bird is key to the team’s offensive flow and she was in the MVP conversation this year. There’s not really anything Stewie can’t do, and I lack the ability to break down her game in words other than “yes” and “wow.”
Natasha Howard is a key part of the Storm’s defense and when she’s also making shots on the other end of the floor, adds a lot to their game (Howard faced allegations of domestic violence from her wife last year.)
The team will be without Sami Whitcomb off the bench, as she went back to Australia to await the birth of her first child.
Sami Whitcomb has left the bubble to be with her wife in Australia for the birth of their first child, the Storm announced. She will miss the entirety of the WNBA Finals.
— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) September 29, 2020
Las Vegas Aces
There are two players (both queer) to keep an eye on for the Aces, who will be difference makers for their team if they can get going. The first is Angel McCoughtry. McCoughty is a veteran who is in her first year with Vegas after spending 12 years with the Atlanta Dream, where she took them to several WNBA Finals appearances. She has more playoff experience than the rest of her team combined. She didn’t get a ton of minutes during the regular season and she was out last year with a knee injury so perhaps people forgot about Angel. But she reminded everyone why she is one of the best of all time in the semis, where she came out in Game 4 and casually dropped 29 points. If Angel is hot, watch out.
The other player who is sometimes overlooked but should not be underestimated is Danielle Robinson. She was insulted after the Sun hardly guarded her at all in the first game and came back determined to show she was a threat. Robinson is quick and can be quietly lethal. Don’t sleep on her. And, just because, here she is being very very cute with her wife:
Fun Stuff from the W This Week
Turns out viewership was up 68 percent this season, proving that a) there is an audience for women’s sports and b) if you put it on TV, people will watch it. LIKE WE’VE BEEN SAYING.
#WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert says that there was a 68% increase in regular season average television viewership across all networks.
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) October 1, 2020
Last week, the Aces’ Kayla McBride opened up to The Players’ Tribune about her struggles with mental health. It’s vulnerable and real and worth a read.
There was some good trash talking on WNBA Twitter this week now that players are out of the Wubble. Candace Parker, who was named Defensive Player of the Year (voted on by media) failed to make a first or second defensive team (voted on by coaches), the first time in WNBA history that’s happened. She let the world know how she felt about it:
Meanwhile, while watching the ~questionable~ officiating in the Aces-Sun series, players shared their own experience with the refs in the Wubble.
Ill do you one better, I had a ref straught up say “don’t talk to me”…….then gone apologize AFTER the game lol. Boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii https://t.co/1Ye5QqMfS3
— Diamond DeShields (@diamonddoesit1) September 30, 2020
The Aces Liz Cambage may have sat out the 2020 season, but she granted us with a Finals Week gift anyway: she posed for Playboy and talked about being 6’8” and enjoying sex. “Me doing Playboy is me celebrating my sexuality like, ‘Yeah, I am a straight six-foot-eight woman who likes to have sex.’ I’m a human; it’s what we do. As a female athlete, I feel like I’m not allowed to be sexy and I’m not allowed to be that person. All society wants from me is to sit down, shut up, go to training and play my sport.”
— Ashley Holcomb (@ashleyxholcomb) October 2, 2020