The second round of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs has not even started yet, but everybody already expects the Las Vegas Aces to just breeze their way past the Dallas Wings in their best-of-five series that will tip off on Sunday at the Michelob Ultra Arena. Do the Wings have any chance to shock the world and upset the reigning champs, who have the WNBA on a stranglehold?
Quite frankly, the likelihood of Dallas pulling off a miracle is unlikely. But we have seen unlikely things happen in basketball. The Aces have looked immovable so far in the WNBA Playoffs after they swept through the Chicago Sky in the first round.
But the Wings also took care of business against the Atlanta Dream and closed out their first-round opponents with a convincing 101-74 win to complete a sweep. Dallas carried the momentum into Game 2 from a valiant effort in Game 1 that saw them storm back from a 20-point deficit to take the series opener.
With that, the Wings head into this second-round series against the defending champion Aces with a ton of confidence. Though Vegas is the best team in women's basketball right now, Dallas star Arike Ogunbowale believes anything is possible. With that said, here are three reasons the Dallas Wings will shock the world and pull off the major upset over the Las Vegas Aces in the 2023 WNBA Playoffs.
1. Wings have beaten the Aces before
Dallas did go just 1-3 against Las Vegas during the regular season. Nonetheless, the Wings did defeat them during one of their Commissioner's Cup games in early July. As such, Dallas knows that the champs are beatable and it knows what it takes to take down Las Vegas in a game that has some semblance of importance.
In that game, the Wings overcame a six-point Aces lead after three quarters and outscored the reigning champs in the fourth period 20-12. Natasha Howard was the woman of the hour for the Wings after she nailed the game-winning freethrows with 0.4 seconds remaining to deal Las Vegas just its second loss of the season
Dallas had all five starters score in double-figures that game, with Arike Ogunbowale leading the way with 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting to go along with four steals and two triples. Natasha Howard (16 points and 11 rebounds) and Teaira McCowan (14 points and 10 rebounds) both registered double-doubles in the win. Crystal Dangerfield and Satou Sabally both had all-around performances as well. Dangerfield tallied 14 points (7-of-12 shooting) with five rebounds, six assists, and three steals, while Sabally had 10 points, five boards, five dimes, and five swipes.
This is Dallas at its best, both offensively and defensively. It will be a challenge for all five Wings starters to put together a string of games like they did on July 7th. Nonetheless, this team is hungry to prove it belongs here.
2. Wings finding their stroke from beyond the arc
Three-point shooting will be a huge factor in this series. The Aces are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league (37.2 percent on 9.3 makes per game) while the Wings are the worst (31.7 percent). Their best shooters — Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally — are both average snipers from long distance. Ogunbowale made nearly three three-pointers per game during the regular season, but shot just over 34 percent. Meanwhile, Sabally led the team in three-point shooting percentage at 36.3 percent and made 1.7 per contest.
On the one hand, Las Vegas has three legitimate snipers on its team. Jackie Young was second in the league in three-point shooting percentage during the regular season at 44.9 percent, while Chelsea Gray was seventh at 42.1 percent. Kelsey Plum, who led the team in makes per game (2.4), shot 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite the major discrepancy in three-point shooting, Dallas has been the better three-point shooting team in the playoffs so far. The Wings have converted 36.8 percent from deep in two games, while the Aces have shot just 32.6 percent, which is well below their regular season percentage.
Sure, this is just a two-game sample size for both squads. But it is still worth noting. Who knows, this may be the indication that the Wings will now catch fire from beyond the arc the rest of the postseason.
3. Wings have the advantage in the paint
Realistically speaking, the three-point shooting may be an outlier for Dallas so far in these playoffs. But what we're sure about is that the Wings had Las Vegas' number inside the paint during the regular season.
The Wings are the best team in the WNBA in generating second chance opportunities and led the league in offensive rebounds at 11.8 per game. This in turn converted into 14.8 second chance points per game for Dallas, which also ranked No. 1 in the Dub. Teaira McCowan, Satou Sabally, and Natasha Howard were all in the top-10 in offensive rebounding during the regular season.
As much as Howard's heroics directly caused their lone win over the Aces, the Wings won that game from the interior. They dominated the glass with a 36-25 rebounding advantage and pummeled the defending champs with 46 points inside the paint compared to Vegas' 22.
Quite frankly, that was the trend throughout their four-game series from May through September. They outrebounded Las Vegas on the offensive glass 46-22.
If Dallas is able to control the paint versus the Aces, they might just have a chance.