This is the dawn of a new era in the WNBA. Viewership is up. The first two rounds of the playoffs had the most TV viewers for playoffs in 20 years. Game one of the Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun was shown on ABC, making it the most viewed game one in five years.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert held a press conference prior to game one. She thanked ESPN for the expanded coverage of the playoffs and finals. “Thinking about what is really driving all this, it’s the players, and so improving the player experience and compensation has been a main priority for the league since I joined,” said Engelbert.
Game one of the finals was close, with the Aces prevailing 67–64. A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray were the high scorers for the Aces, combining for 45 points. The Sun had three players in double figures—Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones and Natisha Hiedeman.
“These are statement games in a way and when you are playing a good team like Connecticut, you have to really lock in at all costs. It was good to have a game underneath our belt,” said Wilson. Despite the win, Aces coach Becky Hammon was not happy with her team’s play. “Happy that we won,” Hammon said. “It’s better than losing, but there’s a lot of things that we can do better.”
The Aces brought that better in game two, prevailing 85–71. Wilson, Gray and Kelsey Plum all scored over 20 points. “It’s about time I joined the party,” said Plum. “My teammates are putting me in a situation where I’m comfortable and I’m just getting to my spot and taking what the defense gives me,” said Wilson, who added that the role of the Aces is to dominate the paint.
WNBA awards continue to be announced. Aces guard Jackie Young, the top pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft, was named Most Improved Player. The New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu finished second in the vote. Aces forward A’ja Wilson earned her second Most Valuable Player honor in three years, narrowly edging out the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart. She previously won in 2020.
The finals continue with game three tonight, and the Aces are looking to close it out and win the team’s first championship. “It’s going to take every bit of everybody,” said Gray. “We’ve been a good road team this year, so we might as well just go ahead and try to win on the road.”