Aces vs. Liberty Odds
-111 / -115
-111 / -115
The Las Vegas Aces travel to Brooklyn with a chance to secure their second straight title on Sunday, with the host New York Liberty hoping to flip the script and at least make a series out of what has so far been an incredibly lopsided affair.
The Liberty won the first half of Game 1, but since that moment, it has been 157-109 in favor of the Aces, as they quite literally ran the Liberty out of Michelob Ultra Arena en route to a 2-0 series lead.
Now the Liberty need to find a way to make this even a close contest, something that both does and doesn’t seem feasible when put under the microscope.
New York Liberty
During the regular season, the Liberty shot 37.4 percent from three. In their five games against the Aces before these Finals, they shot 39.4 percent from three. In these two games, they have shot 26.6 percent from three. In the last three halves, they have shot 20.5 percent from three.
There are many factors that have played a role in the Liberty being down 2-0 (we’ll get into them here), but if you want to look at a good place to start, that catering in ability to make shots is a good place to start. The next question naturally becomes: Are the Liberty just missing good looks, or has the Aces defense taken any and all good looks? Sadly data on contested versus open looks is very difficult to track down for WNBA game by game box scores, but going to the tape, it certainly appears to be a mix of the two.
Courtney Vandersloot, in particular, has had many open looks that she has either missed or just turned down entirely. Sabrina Ionescu, on the other hand, has had, by my count, one open look all series (one semi-contested in the corner as well).
That complete erasure of Ionescu is one of the most fascinating pivot points of the series. The natural reaction when watching a series like this where two seemingly even teams suddenly don’t even look in the same atmosphere as each other is that one team had a next gear to engage. My initial read was to push back on this. One of the nice things about the addition of the Commissioner’s Cup to the WNBA schedule was that we got to see a playoff proxy environment smack dab in the middle of the regular season. And the Liberty looked to be the much stronger team, winning by 19 in Vegas, with Ionescu getting loose for three threes in the game.
However, it is very much worth noting the difference in timing between the CC Final, and these actual Finals. For the CC Final, the Aces had played five games in nine days and still had a month of the season remaining to save themselves for. As Game 1 tipped, the Aces had played only five games in 28 (!) days and with only an offseason ahead (well, at least for the players who don’t go overseas), veterans like Chelsea Gray can truly leave it all on the court for these Finals.
So I have come around on believing in this Aces defense to continue to absolutely dog the Liberty, especially from beyond the arc, and especially Ionescu. The Liberty shot 2.4 percent better from three at home, so I think there’s a bit of a bounceback to be had, but I would not project them to match the 37.4 percent from three they posted in the regular season, let alone the 39.4 percent they hit against the Aces in their five matchups before the Finals.
Las Vegas Aces
During the regular season, the Aces shot 37.2 percent from three. In their five games against the Liberty before these Finals, they shot 32.2 percent from three. In these two games, they have shot 43.1 percent from three. In the last three halves, they have shot 43.6 percent from three.
The story is the literal inverse from the Liberty. These two were basically exact mirrors of each other in the largest sample, but during the five matchups before this, the Liberty had some good shooting luck, while the Aces had very bad shooting luck. Now those two trends have flipped entirely, and it at least looks in part because of the energy gap between these two on the court (while some is almost certainly luck, and some being home court).
So with the Aces now set to hit the road, what number should we expect from the Aces?
This is where I do think it’s fair to bake in regression. While the “next gear” of the Aces can explain the drop in Liberty shooting, I think it’s much harder to explain the turbo boost given to the Aces shooting? Yes, Chelsea Gray does seem to reach a God Tier as the moment gets bigger and bigger, but outside of Chelsea, I am not willing to say the rest of the Aces have a focus next gear that is explaining the six point gap in three point percentage between the regular season and Finals.
So, if I am looking at the Aces defense to remain strong, as well as their shooting to regress a bit, naturally the under is the play. Both games have gone over so far, so it’s fair to be skeptical here, and at this point, I am not handing out any plays above half a unit.
That being said, I like the full game under 172.5.
There’s one other play that I walked through on the Buckets podcast today, as well. There is a well-known trend in NBA playoff betting circles: Targeting the first half spread for teams down 2-0 headed home. It’s the ultimate back against the wall spot, so it makes sense. I am going to pair it with Aces second half spread, in what books will hopefully treat as a negatively correlated same game parlay, even though I see it as not necessarily negatively correlated (no book has the option to play this yet, so keep an eye in the Action app for when it releases).
The thought on the Aces second half is two-fold. First of all, they have absolutely wiped the floor with the Liberty in both second halves in these Finals so far, and it’s where the coaching gap (which is looking more and more vast with each passing game) is on greatest display. However, it’s also that this bet has several different outs. There is the Game 1 route, where the Liberty, backs against the wall, take a small first half lead only for the Aces to run away with the second half.
However, there’s also the possibility that the Liberty finally wake up and take a big lead into the half, at which point (despite the snowballing effect that seems to play out between these two teams and deny us a close game), I would still lean towards the Aces at least cutting into that lead in the second half.
Pick: Under 172.5; Liberty first half/Aces second half same game parlay