September 23, 2023
How the Dallas Wings can beat the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semifinals
'If we just stay true to who we are ... we’re going to have a great chance'
Starting Sunday, the Dallas Wings will take on the defending champion Las Vegas Aces in a best-of-five series in the WNBA semifinals.
Dallas head coach Latricia Trammell said on Sept. 22 that her team is ready to compete in a big game like this. “I think if we just stay true to who we are and do what we do and continue to stay positive, we’re going to have a great chance,” she said.
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The Wings beat the Las Vegas Aces in a down-to-the-wire matchup on July 7, 80-78. It was just the second loss for the defending champions in the regular season. After the win, Trammell told her players that they can beat anybody if they stay locked in for four quarters.
“This ought to be a big confidence booster, and we’ve got to continue to build on this,” she said.
Dallas went on to beat the New York Liberty on July 19 and the Connecticut Sun on Aug. 12. The Wings were the only team to beat the top three playoff seeds in the regular season.
The Wings’ 2-0 series win in the first round against the Atlanta Dream was their first since 2009, when they were known as the Detroit Shock. Dallas made history in Game 2, beating the Dream by 27 points. It was the largest postseason margin of victory for the franchise since 2006. On Sept. 22, Trammell said she was blessed and honored to be the head coach of this Wings team.
“They’re enjoying this journey that we’re on [for the] first time in franchise history, so they’re history-makers and they are reaping the rewards of that. And so they’re excited to get going Sunday,” Trammell said.
It is difficult to beat any team three times in a short time span, as the Wings will have to do to advance to the WNBA Finals. The first three semifinal games are all within five days, leaving little time for practices.
But there are a couple of advantages Dallas has that, if they exploit them, will give them the biggest chance to win this series.
Length and depth
Playing inside-out has been the key to the Wings’ success all season long. Size and length are the advantages they have over Las Vegas. It begins with 6’7 center Teaira McCowan.
She nearly averaged a double-double in the regular season with 11.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Dallas led the league in offensive rebounding with 11.8 per game, and McCowan is a big reason why.
After the first-round series win on Sept. 19, the team’s leading scorer, Arike Ogunbowale, said that McCowan is one of the best bigs in the league.
“These last four games she has been super, super dominant, and that’s what we need from her, but she’s been doing that a lot for us,” Ogunbowale said. “We get second chances because of her. She puts it back [in] when we miss it.”
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There is size on the bench as well. 6’7 backup center Kalani Brown brings the same energy and skill as McCowan with a little bit more range shooting the ball. 6’6 forward Awak Kuier has been getting more opportunities to play and is maximizing her time on the court. She said on Sept. 22 that her length is part of what she brings that can help the team win.
“I think just being so long and being able to protect the rim is something that I think other players find hard playing against,” Kuier said.
In the series win against the Dream, Kuier recorded three blocks and McCowan two. It is going to take using their size to their advantage to slow the Aces down.
Bench depth and defensive pressure
The Dallas bench has been very valuable throughout the season. Being able to rotate players and give opponents different looks could keep the Aces on their heels.
“They do so much for us,” McCowan said of the reserves. “I mean, just coming in, we know there is not going to be a drop-off. They work so hard in practice. I give them all their flowers, and they just come in and they know what to do. We dont have to tell them to do as much, but we don’t have to hype them up either.”
Ogunbowale echoed McCowan, saying, “There is no drop-off when we sub. They are still five players that could probably start on another team.”
If the Wings are able to wear Vegas down with a fast-paced offense and tough defense for four quarters, they could find success in the series. Guard Crystal Dangerfield said Sept. 22 that pressuring Las Vegas on defense can be used to the Wings’ advantage.
“No one really likes to [deal with] any pressure. I think this time of year, you can really use that to your advantage,” she said. “People might be tired, might have some aches and pains, and you get up and you’re more physical and that may turn in your favor.”
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When Trammell was asked what the Wings can do to slow down the Aces, she played it close to the vest.
“You’re gonna have to tune in and watch,” she said, “because that’s some of the adjustments we’re going to be making, to hopefully do that defensively.”