Liberty history isn’t good when it comes to the WNBA championship round. But it’s also ancient history.
The team went to what was then a singular title game in the league’s first season of 1997 and lost. The Liberty also fell in a best-of-three Finals in 1999, 2000 and 2002, including a pair of two-game sweeps.
Eight games total. One win. Zero championships.
Now the Liberty are back to fight for the title for the first time in 21 years with a star-powered team that has a real shot at making positive history — earning a first WNBA championship banner to hang in the rafters at Barclays Center.
The thing is, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces also have just as good a shot to earn another banner.
A best-of-five Finals matchup between the WNBA’s two superteams was expected all along. The top-seeded Aces and the second-seeded Liberty will begin their showdown Sunday in Las Vegas and continue with Game 2 there Oct. 11 before moving on to Barclays Center on Oct. 15.
“We continue to understand what it is to represent the Liberty and how we can be great together and know that Vegas has obviously had an incredible season,” league MVP Breanna Stewart said. “We’ve played them tough many times. It’s going to be a great series.”
The Aces won a league-record 34 games and lost six in the regular season. The Liberty had the winningest run in their 27-year history at 32-8.
They have met five times since the regular season began. Final score: Liberty 3, Las Vegas 2.
The teams got to know each other well with four games in August.
The Liberty won three, including the Commissioner’s Cup title game in Las Vegas, which didn’t count in the standings.
Jonquel Jones was the MVP in that game, a slice of her outstanding work since the All-Star break. The 6-6 center has recorded a WNBA-record six straight double-doubles to open the postseason. She has been an immense, physical inside force and has three-point capability.
Take Sunday’s 87-84 Game 4 clincher against the Sun in the semifinals in Connecticut. Jones wrecked the Sun with 25 points, including two three-pointers, 15 rebounds (six offensive) and four blocked shots.
“A lot of it just was JJ working really bloody hard to get position,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’ll continue to make sure we’re throwing the ball into her.”
Fouling her can come with a price tag. Jones went 9-for-12 at the line Sunday, including 5-for-6 in the pressure-packed final minute.
“I’m confident when I’m up there,” Jones said.
The Liberty will have to deal with two-way superstar forward/center and 2022 MVP A’ja Wilson and a trio of exceptional guards in Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young.
“Getting to the Finals is not an easy thing,” Stewart said. “So I just want everyone to really enjoy it and embrace it and understand that this is the biggest moment of our entire season now. We want to make sure this is where we’re at our best.”
WNBA FINALS TV SCHEDULE
(All times Eastern)
Game 1: Liberty at Aces, Sunday, Oct. 8, 3 p.m. on ABC
Game 2: Liberty at Aces, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 9 p.m. on ESPN
Game 3: Aces at Liberty, Sunday, Oct. 15, 3 p.m. on ABC
*Game 4: Aces at Liberty, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m. on ESPN
*Game 5: Liberty at Aces, Friday, October 20, 9 p.m. on ESPN