WNBA Power Rankings: Will Chicago or Las Vegas win Commissioner’s Cup final?on July 25, 2022 at 2:55 pm

The Commissioner’s Cup debuted last year with a championship matchup between the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun that, at the time, was thought to be a potential WNBA Finals meeting. It didn’t turn out that way as neither team advanced to the championship series.

This year’s version again feels very much like a Finals preview. The Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces are the top two teams in the league standings and ESPN’s WNBA Power Rankings, and have been among the hottest teams since the All-Star Game.

Chicago hosts Las Vegas on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET). The Commissioner’s Cup championship game is on Amazon Prime, which was part of the deal the WNBA reached with Amazon in 2021 as another revenue source for the league.

Both teams lost this past week, but those were the only losses the Sky and Aces have had since Team A’ja Wilson won the All-Star Game on July 10. Both are 5-1 in that stretch, but Chicago has done it without All-Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who has missed the past four games while in concussion protocol.

The Sky’s 83-80 loss at the New York Liberty on Saturday was their third game in four days, plus they had travel delays on the way to the Big Apple. Chicago coach James Wade brushed off questions about fatigue, saying it is just part of what all teams deal with. Despite the obstacles, the Sky still almost won that game.

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Las Vegas has had defensive concerns in recent weeks, but coach Becky Hammon was happy with the way the Aces played in beating Los Angeles 84-66 on Saturday, calling it one of their better all-around efforts on both ends.

The Aces are now in for a travel test: Their next six games, starting with the Cup final, are on the road. They will go from Chicago to Indiana (two games) to Washington to Dallas to Seattle. Where will they be in the WNBA standings at the end of this stretch, headed into the final week of the regular season?

“Actually, we’ve been better on the road than at home, so hopefully that trend continues,” Hammon said of the Aces’ 10-3 mark away from Las Vegas compared to 10-5 there. “I have to do a good job of getting them the proper rest vs. keeping them sharp. We are literally making a whole circle around the United States. It hits every team at some point. But I think the road has been good for us with that foxhole mentality.”

The Sky and Aces have split their two regular-season meetings in 2022, each winning on the other’s home court. They will meet one more time, Aug. 11 in Las Vegas. Their matchup June 21 in Las Vegas was one of the stranger games of the season, with the Aces dominating the first quarter but then Chicago making the biggest comeback in league history (28 points) to win 104-95.

That loss sent Las Vegas in a bit of a tailspin — the Aces lost five of seven going into the All-Star Game — but it seems to be over now.

Chicago has had the league’s most superior depth (even without Vandersloot) this season. Las Vegas has been the WNBA’s best offensive team, leading the way in points per game (90.4) and offensive rating (108.3). The Sky are right behind in scoring average (85.6), and they have the edge in defensive rating: fifth at 98.0 to the Aces’ sixth at 101.3.

Individually, Las Vegas’ Kelsey Plum (20.1 PPG), Wilson (19.4) and Jackie Young (16.3) are all in the top 10 in the league in scoring. Seven Sky players are averaging between 14.8 and 9.0 points, led by Kahleah Copper. Chicago’s Candace Parker has two triple-doubles this season.

No slight toward the other teams, but this seems to be the perfect showcase for the Commissioner’s Cup championship, and a definite taste of the postseason.

Previous rankings: Preseason KN

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