LAS VEGAS (AP) — A’ja Wilson had 24 points and 11 rebounds and the Las Vegas Aces beat the Connecticut Sun 67-64 on Sunday in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
The Aces staved off a late run by the Sun, who nearly erased a seven-point deficit with 1:24 left when Alyssa Thomas hit back-to-back shots to pull Connecticut within three. But DeWanna Bonner’s desperation 3-point attempt to tie the game fell short as time expired.
Chelsea Gray finished with 21 points for Las Vegas, while Jackie Young chipped in 11 as the franchise won their first WNBA Finals game in franchise history. They had been swept in 2008 when the team was in San Antonio and lost in three games in 2020.
“Coming from being swept and actually getting one. Pretty happy about this one,” Wilson said. “Not going to dwell on it long as we have a really tough Game 2 coming up.”
After squandering a first-quarter lead, and allowing the Sun to control the second and carry momentum in the third, the Aces outscored Connecticut 13-3 to close the third quarter and seize momentum for the final period before a frenzied record sold out gathering of 10,135.
Thomas led Connecticut with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonquel Jones added 15 points, Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12 and Natasha Hiedeman contributed with 10.
Dearica Hamby came off the bench a bit past 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 point deficit into a two-point lead heading into the final period. Hamby missed the final month of the regular season with a knee injury.
She didn’t play in the first round of the playoffs and was used sparingly in the final two games of the semifinals.
The Aces set the tone early by taking a 12-5 lead with Wilson leading the charge by scoring six of their points. Wilson scored 12 of her points in the first quarter, as Las Vegas shot 56.3% (9 of 16) from the floor. Connecticut finished the opening quarter hitting 8 of 18 (47.6%). And while the Aces were 5 of 7 from the free-throw line, the Sun didn’t have one attempt in the period.
The Sun wasted no time in getting back into the game, opening the second quarter by scoring the first six points to pull within two, and eventually took a one-point lead at 30-29 behind 13-4 run. The Aces shot a dreadful 3 for 15 (20%) and was outscored 21-9 in the second quarter. The Sun finished 9 of 14 (64.2%) in the quarter and hit 17 of 42 (40.4%) in the first half.
“We can’t let them get rockin’ and rollin’ like that,” Wilson said.
In attendance for Game 1 included Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, free agent DeMarcus Cousins and Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue.
Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced during her pregame press conference that the WNBA will hold a preseason exhibition game in Canada next year with hopes of continuing global exposure for the league. This will be the first time since 2011 that the WNBA has played an international game.
The teams will play Game 2 in Las Vegas on Tuesday.