LAS VEGAS (AP) — A’ja Wilson scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun 67-64 in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday.
The Sun nearly erased a seven-point deficit with 1:24 remaining when Alyssa Thomas hit back-to-back shots to pull Connecticut within three. However, as time expired, DeWanna Bonner’s desperate 3-point attempt to tie the game fell short.
Chelsea Gray finished with 21 points for Las Vegas, while Jackie Young added 11 as the franchise won its first WNBA Finals game. They were swept in 2008 when the team was in San Antonio, and they were defeated in three games in 2020.
“From being swept to actually receiving one. “I’m pretty pleased with this one,” Wilson said. “We’re not going to dwell on it for too long because we have a really tough Game 2 coming up.”
After blowing a first-quarter lead and allowing the Sun to control the second and carry momentum into the third, the Aces outscored Connecticut 13-3 to close the third quarter and seize momentum for the final period in front of a frenzied crowd of 10,135.
Connecticut was led by Thomas, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonquel Jones had 15 points, Brionna Jones had 12 points off the bench, and Natasha Hiedeman had 10.
Dearica Hamby came off the bench shortly after the midway point of the third quarter and provided an immediate spark for the Aces with a pair of offensive rebounds, a put back under the basket, two assists, and a steal as the Aces clawed their way back to turn a six-point deficit into a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. With a knee injury, Hamby missed the final month of the regular season.
She did not play in the first round of the playoffs and was only used sparingly in the semifinals.
The Aces jumped out to an early 12-5 lead, with Wilson leading the charge with six points. Wilson scored 12 points in the first quarter, while Las Vegas shot 56.3% (9 of 16). Connecticut hit 8 of 18 (47.6%) in the first quarter. The Aces were 5 of 7 from the free-throw line, while the Sun had none in the period.
The Sun wasted no time getting back into the game, scoring the first six points of the second quarter to pull within two, and eventually took a one-point lead at 30-29 thanks to a 13-4 run. The Aces shot a dismal 3 for 15 (20%) in the second quarter and were outscored 21-9. The Sun finished the quarter 9 of 14 (64.2%) and the first half 17 of 42 (40.4%).
“We can’t let them get so rocking’ and rolling’,” Wilson said.
THE COURTSIDE CLUB
Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights, Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, free agent DeMarcus Cousins, and Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue were among those in attendance for Game 1.
EXHIBITION, YOU SAY?
During her pregame press conference, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league will hold a preseason exhibition game in Canada next year in the hopes of increasing the league’s global exposure. The WNBA will play an international game for the first time since 2011.
On Tuesday, the teams will play Game 2 in Las Vegas.