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The WNBA Finals kicked off Sunday (October 8) between the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty in Las Vegas, Nev. with the home team showing off their champion form as they defend their title in this best-of-five series. While the first half was competitive and saw the Liberty up by a handful, the Aces turned things around in the second.
Coached by Becky Hammon, the Aces, led by guards Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, and Chelsea Gray, the Aces came out the gate slow but managed to keep the scoring of Liberty stars Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot under their usual output.
The play from the Aces trio stood out as the Liberty used much of their energy attempting to contain Aces power forward A’Ja Wilson, who scored 19 points and hauled in 8 boards, allowing Young to go off for 26 points. Young played hard all 94 feet and hindered the usually productive Ionescu from a scoring explosion. Plum also scored 26, and Gray had 20 points with a team-leading 9 assists.
On the other side of the ball, Breanna Stewart scored 21 with 9 rebounds, while Jonquel Jones had a double-double of 16 points and 10. Ionescu scored 7 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello, leading the team back to its first WNBA Finals appearance since 2002, stressed in the postgame press conference that her players will have to adjust to the swarming defense of the Aces and reminded the reporters in tow that this isn’t typical New York basketball.
“We can obviously learn a lot from this and we can play better,” Brondello said. “That’s what we have to remember. We haven’t lost two in a row all season long, and we’re going to know that we responded the right way. I trust these players.”
Because of the two marquee teams, the WNBA Finals attracted plenty of star power with LeBron James, Sheryl Swoopes, Mark Wahlberg, and Aces minority owner, Tom Brady all in attendance among others. The Brooklyn Nets also had several players in attendance such as Ben Simmons and Mikal Bridges, proving that women’s basketball is growing in popularity in the States.
Game 2 of the WNBA Finals kicks off on Wednesday, October 11 in Las Vegas. The series returns to New York on October 15.