Seattle and Las Vegas set for WNBA Finals matchup

For the fourth time in five seasons the best two teams in the WNBA will square off for the championship when Seattle and Las Vegas play in the finals.

The best-of-five series begins Friday night.

Las Vegas needed to beat Connecticut in a decisive fifth game of the semifinals on Tuesday to reach the finals for the second time franchise history. The Aces, who are the top seed in the playoffs, also made the championship round in 2008, when the team was located in San Antonio. The Silver Stars were swept in three games by Bill Laimbeer’s Detroit Shock that season.

Seattle swept Minnesota in its semifinal to reach the championship round for the second time in three seasons.

“They are going to be rested and that can be good and bad sometimes,” Laimbeer, the Aces’ coach said. “Sometimes a bit of rust. We know them, they know us. We played each other twice. Eyeballed each other.”

The Storm had nine days off after the regular season ended because they earned a double-bye. It was supposed to be a few days less, but three inconclusive COVID-19 tests forced the first game of their series with Minnesota to be postponed two days. Eventually all the tests came back negative

Bird and Stewart were glad to have some rest again before the opener of the WNBA Finals.

“There’s a huge difference in 10 days and five days,” Stewart said. “We’re going to do what we can to make sure our bodies are ready.”

Both players missed the final meeting between Seattle and Las Vegas on the last day of the regular season because of injury. Bird, who turns 40 on Oct. 16, also missed the first meeting because of a bone bruise in her knee.

“This is the finals. The two best teams in the league going at it,” said Wilson, who was the league’s MVP. “It was ugly, but we got a win. End of day, we’ll go back and watch film on ourselves and Seattle.”

History may be on the Aces’ side as the team that has had the league’s MVP has won the title every year since 2016.

Seattle was the preseason favorite to win the championship and ran through the first part of the season before Bird suffered a bone bruise in her knee. Stewart also missed the final few games of the regular season as the Storm (18-4) finished as the No. 2 seed behind Las Vegas.

“We’ll get some time off. Everyone’s beat up at this time of the season,” Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Playing every other day. Get some good practices for whoever we are going to play at the end of the week.”

Here are a few other tidbits for the finals:

OH BABY!: Seattle will be without guard Sami Whitcomb for the WNBA Finals as she returned to Australia to be with her wife for the birth of their first child. She averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the regular season. The 32-year-old guard was a reserve on the Storm’s 2018 WNBA championship team.

PERFECT MARK: Seattle has been to the finals three times before and won each one. The Storm were champions in 2004, 2010 and 2018.

“When you’re younger, you think it’s always going to happen,” Bird said. “You start to realize how hard it is. When you’re in the moment, you start to grab at it. Right now, I’m thinking I’m super excited to be in the final.”

BENCH PLAY: Both Seattle and Las Vegas have two of the best benches in the league. The Aces’ took a hit when sixth woman of the year Dearica Hamby injured her knee and is expected to miss the finals. She didn’t play in games four or five of the semifinals. The Aces reserves had just four points total in the final two games of the series against Connecticut. They averaged a WNBA record 35 points a game.

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Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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