The Las Vegas Aces are on the verge of making history in the WNBA Finals, but not in the way they hoped. The Aces are trailing 2-1 to the Chicago Sky and have lost two of their key players, Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes, to injuries. The Aces will have to overcome these setbacks and find a way to win two games in a row to claim their first WNBA title.
Gray and Stokes ruled out for Game 4
The Aces were dealt a double blow when they announced that Gray and Stokes were ruled out for Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday. Gray, the team’s starting point guard and leader in assists, suffered a right knee injury in the third quarter of Game 3 on Sunday. Stokes, the team’s backup center and leader in blocks, sustained a right foot injury in the same game.
Gray and Stokes are both vital to the Aces’ success on both ends of the floor. Gray averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game in the regular season and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. She also hit the game-winning shot in Game 2 of the Finals to tie the series at 1-1. Stokes averaged 4.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in the regular season and was a key defender and rebounder for the Aces.
Without Gray and Stokes, the Aces will have to rely on their remaining stars, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum and A’ja Wilson, to carry the load. Young, Plum and Wilson combined for 65 points in Game 3, but it was not enough to overcome the Sky’s balanced attack led by Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper.
Aces face history and odds
The Aces are facing a daunting task of winning two games in a row against a confident and motivated Sky team that is one win away from its first WNBA title. The Aces will also have to defy history and odds, as no WNBA team has ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the Finals. In fact, teams that trailed 2-0 were swept seven of eight times in the Finals.
The Aces will have to find a way to adjust their game plan without Gray and Stokes and hope that their bench players can step up and contribute. The Aces will also have to improve their defense, rebounding and free throw shooting, as they were outperformed by the Sky in those areas in Game 3.
The Aces are not giving up on their championship aspirations, however. They believe that they have enough talent and resilience to overcome the challenges and force a decisive Game 5 on Friday.
Sky look to close out series
The Sky are feeling confident and determined after taking a 2-1 lead in the Finals with a convincing 86-70 win in Game 3. The Sky have been playing with great chemistry, balance and intensity throughout the playoffs, overcoming injuries, COVID-19 protocols and lower seeds to reach the Finals.
The Sky are led by Parker, who returned to her hometown of Chicago this season after spending 13 years with the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker is averaging 15 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4 assists per game in the Finals and is looking to win her second WNBA title after winning one with the Sparks in 2016.
The Sky also have a dynamic backcourt duo of Vandersloot and Copper, who are averaging 16 points and 8 assists per game and 18 points and 5 rebounds per game respectively in the Finals. Vandersloot is one of the best point guards in WNBA history and is aiming for her first title after being with the Sky since 2011. Copper is having a breakout season and was named the WNBA Most Improved Player this year.
The Sky are not taking anything for granted, however. They know that the Aces are still a dangerous team even without Gray and Stokes and that they will have to play with the same focus and energy that they have shown throughout the playoffs.
The Sky are hoping to close out the series on Wednesday night at home in front of their fans at Wintrust Arena.