Sun vs. Aces Odds
|Moneyline||+165 / -200|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
With Game 1 of the WNBA Finals officially in the books, let’s take a look at how things played out for each team and where we need to either re-assess or double down on some of our priors heading into this series.
A one-game sample is never enough to fully adjust one’s process, of course, but it’s exponentially more information on how these two exact rosters set up in a playoff environment than we had before the series got underway. (The two franchises matched up in the 2020 playoffs, but for myriad factors this year will look a lot different.)
Let’s dig in.
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Despite not actually landing the win, Game 1 went pretty well for the Sun. They kept the game low-scoring and grimy—just the way they love to do. They held the Aces to their lowest point total in a game all season, and they had a look to force overtime that went begging at the end of the game. Not a bad start.
Of course, “close but no cigar” isn’t going to get Curt Miller and the Sun a ring, so what needs to change for them to win the series?
The number one thing that jumped out to me in Game 1 was the free-throw discrepancy. The Aces got to the line 19 times, which was basically right on their season average, but the Sun only got there five times. These were the second and third teams in the WNBA this season in terms of free throws attempted per game, but interestingly enough, it was the Sun who were better at limiting their opponent’s trips to the charity stripe during the 2022 season.
This was by a narrow margin, but still, that 14-attempt difference is naturally going to jump out in what was a three-point loss. Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones, and Briona Jones all had strong games for the Sun, but they only attempted three free throws combined, compared to 14 just from A’ja Wilson. Part of that might be a little home cooking, but it can’t be entirely explained away just because of the raucous and record-breaking crowd.
The Sun need to be more aggressive drawing contact on the offensive end, and they can’t resort as easily to fouling Wilson if they are beaten. Both of these goals are easier said than done, but they will be necessary should the Sun want to steal a game in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Aces
For Las Vegas, Game 1 was mission accomplished. If the Aces can simply win each home game, they will come out of this series on top — groundbreaking reporting, I know.
But in all seriousness, the Aces won’t mind playing in the mud if they can come out on top like they did on Sunday.
It’s rare that a team can out-grind the Playoff Sun, so that’s my biggest takeaway from Game 1. As someone coming into this series on the side of the Sun (only because of odds that seemed longer than they should have been, which looked accurate in a tightly contested Game 1), that scares me a bit. Those grimy games often go Connecticut’s way.
Outside of that, there were a few other takeaways for the Aces that we can apply to betting the rest of the series. For one, let’s look at the shot distribution. Chelsea Gray led the team in field goal attempts, and I am officially giving up the ghost when it comes to trying to catch the Gray regression train on player props. By now she’s getting the volume to weather any sort of drop in accuracy.
On the flip side of the coin, Plum only took nine shots for the game and even more notably made just one! I hadn’t been targeting Plum point-total unders leading into the series, but given the Sun’s strong three-point defense, it does make sense as an angle. If her line is sitting around 19.5 again, that could be a good under to target.
As a final player prop angle, I know this is going to sound wild with her coming off of a 24 and 11 game, but I think I’ll stick with some Wilson unders. She (likely!) won’t be going back to the line 14 times next game, and she took only 11 field goal attempts for the game (obviously she’d have a few more if she wasn’t fouled on several). Hopefully her point total comes out around 23.5 again because I will look to that under.
Zooming out a bit, the team has to be ecstatic with what they got from Dearica Hamby. She has been so essential to this franchise over the years but has been notably absent from this postseason, even once she returned from injury. However, in Game 1 she keyed a big run for the Aces in the fourth quarter and matches up very well with a gritty team like Connecticut.
So, a few things have changed in my assessment of this series, but overall a lot remained the same. I still like this series to go five games, and as a result, I find value on the Sun to win the series (even longer now — +450 at BetMGM, or +800 to win in five exactly at BetRivers), and I really like the under.
I am backing off fading Gray point-total unders, but I am going to double down on Wilson going under (simply because the line comes out so high—no disrespect to the MVP). As a reminder, always track my picks in the Action Network app for those player prop bets, as the lines can move quickly on those. Getting Wilson’s rebounds prop at under 11.5 compared to 10.5 proved to be the difference in Game 1.
Pick: Under 163.5
Lean: A’ja Wilson under 23.5 points; Kelsey Plum over 3.5 assists