Photo Credit: Vinnie Lucia

The Rivalry Intensifies Between the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces

The matchup between both phenoms continued to only get better and made for an even more anticipated matchup come playoff time. Monday’s matchup, resulted in record record-setting selling out crowd with 11,615 in attendance. That said, the energy in the arena was electric and fortunately the Liberty continuously gave the fans something to cheer as the game progressed.

The New York Liberty (28-7) defeated the Las Vegas Aces (30-6), 94-85, handing the Aces their first consecutive loss since 2022. In the month of August, these two teams competed against each other four times. In those four meetings, the Liberty have secured three of those victories by an average of 22 points, however throughout the season, the Liberty lead the series, 3-2. 

Throughout this matchup, both opposing teams have shown a high level of competitive energy and their will to win. Early in the game, it appeared both teams struggled to find their rhythm and didn’t allow for either team to build much momentum. Nonetheless, as the game progressed, the Aces tended to be more aggressive due to shots not falling as efficiently as they would have liked. This resulted in former MVP Jonquel Jones grabbing three fouls within the first half, which changed the game entirely as the Liberty attempted to utilize her within the gameplan. 

“Look, I think having KT [Kayla Thornton] and Steph [Dolson] coming off the bench is a luxury for us,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello stated in the post-game press conference. “Although Steph hasn’t played a lot, she’s one of the smartest basketball players in the entire league. She knows how to execute the gameplan and she was big for us tonight.”   

New York Liberty Sabrina Ionescu: ‘It was like a mini-series for us in the season’

Some would agree, that these matchups between the Aces and Liberty were a bit of foreshadowing of what’s to come. Prior to the start of the season, many predicted these two teams to end in the finals and many still share the same sentiment. Understanding the level of competitiveness continued to elevate both teams, especially as the playoffs are rapidly approaching. Both teams have clinched a playoff berth already, therefore drawing that much more excitement around the matchup.

“I’m learning how we can make adjustments and want to continue to tighten up some things to continue to be the best New York Liberty team we can be,” Ionescu stated. “It was like a mini-series for us in the middle of the season, so it’s been nice to see how we adjust and come out from it.”

Something else to consider was that both teams, while competing currently, were also learning one another strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, both teams haven’t been at full strength whenever they've met this season. However, these games have still portrayed an in-depth preview of what’s to come.

The Impact the Series has on Women’s Basketball

While the rivalry has proven to be chippy and a bit overly aggressive at times, this arguably is one of the best things that could ever happen for the WNBA. Naturally, many of the aspects that draw crowds to sports are fantastic rivalries combined with great talent and quality. In the last decade, the WNBA has greatly improved with level of quality, therefore helping expand the sport and gain the notoriety it rightfully deserves. When discussing with reigning champion and  MVP Aja Wilson, she suggested that this rivalry is one of the greatest things that can happen for the sport. However, there is still a level of respect and decorum that she believes must be kept between opposing teams. 

“I mean it’s fun, this is the game when you want to shine the brightest,” Wilson explained. “This is the game a lot of people want to pay attention to and this is what we’re trying to grow our game to be.”

Most rivalries begin over the smallest disputes, yet it makes for great entertainment. In fact, some of our favorite rivalries stem from slight forms of disrespect to the opposing team or individual. 

“When you look at any league or sport, rivalries are the best because people can emotionally get attached to it and want to support and trash talk,” she continued. “On the lines of trash-talking, I believe there’s a line and it’s cool and all, however let's remember to be respectful to our opponents.”

What’s Next for the New York Liberty?

Friday night, the Liberty are set to take on the Connecticut Suns whom they can possibly see within the opening rounds of the WNBA playoffs. The Suns (24-11) have proven to be one of the scarier teams in the league being led by potential MVP candidate Alyssa Thomas. The Liberty has been on the road for most of the month of August, however they are rewarded with two back-to-back home games.