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‘The job isn’t done’: Aces prepare for familiar foes in WNBA Finals

At noon Sunday, the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun will play Game 4 of their WNBA semifinal series.

The No. 2-seeded Liberty have a chance to book their place in the Finals. The No. 3 Sun will hope to extend the series to a winner-take-all Game 5.

Aces coach Becky Hammon will be happily watching from home.

“We’ll definitely get some rest,” Hammon said Friday. “We’re going to sit back and watch these teams battle it out.

“And then (we) go to war.”

The top-seeded Aces clinched their return to the Finals on Friday with a 64-61 comeback win against the No. 4 Dallas Wings to sweep their semifinals series 3-0. The Aces are attempting to become the first team to repeat as champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.

It’s the Aces’ third trip to the Finals in the past four years. They were swept 3-0 by the Seattle Storm in 2020, then beat the Sun 3-1 last season to claim the franchise’s first championship and the first major league professional title in Las Vegas history.

“The job isn’t done,” All-Star guard Kelsey Plum said. “We’re not sure who we’ll be playing yet, but we do know that we need to be very prepared and we’re excited to defend home court.”

The Aces know the two teams potentially standing in their path toward history very well.

The Liberty have been considered the biggest obstacle toward a repeat championship since the offseason. New York added 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, perennial All-Star guard Courtney Vandersloot and recently crowned MVP Breanna Stewart — who beat out Aces forward A’ja Wilson by just 13 points — to a core led by 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu.

The Aces routed the Liberty 98-81 on June 6 with Candace Parker in the lineup, but were hammered 99-61 in an Aug. 8 matchup in one of the biggest losses of Hammon’s tenure.

A Chelsea Gray triple-double led the Aces to an 88-75 win Aug. 17, but New York beat them 95-84 in the final game of the regular-season series Aug. 28.

New York also beat the Aces 82-63 in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game Aug. 15 at Michelob Ultra Arena, though the result didn’t count in the standings.

The Aces haven’t seen Connecticut since July 1. The Sun underwent some drastic changes during the offseason, losing Jones to New York while longtime coach Curt Miller joined the Los Angeles Sparks.

Connecticut suffered a further setback when 2023 Sixth Player of the Year and All-Star center Brionna Jones ruptured her Achilles tendon June 20, but the play of All-Star forward Alyssa Thomas, who finished second in MVP voting despite having the most first-place votes, carried the Sun to the No. 3 seed.

Connecticut hosted the Aces for consecutive games June 6 and June 8, with Hammon’s team winning the former and losing the latter at the end of a long road trip. The Aces then won the final game of the regular-season series 102-84 on July 1, though they still had Parker and Jones had just been injured.

Regardless of who the Aces face, Hammon said she has been most impressed with her team’s commitment to each other. She said their resilience and defensive engagement were on full display in the closeout win against Dallas, and her players agreed.

“This,” Gray said, “is a special group.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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