Game 1 of the WNBA Finals went to the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces as they beat the No. 2 seed New York Liberty 99-82. The Aces got a superb performance from their guards, with both Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum scoring 26 points and Chelsea Gray adding 20 points, six rebounds and nine assists to secure the win and remain unbeaten in the playoffs.
New York got great first half from Marine Johannès, who outscored the Aces bench by herself with 14 points. But it wasn’t enough. The Liberty went cold from 3 in the second half, shooting 1-for-9 from beyond the arc as the Aces outscored the Liberty 53-33 after halftime. Sabrina Ionescu struggled all game, shooting 2-for-7 from the field and mustering seven points.
The parity between these two teams was clear from the jump, with both exchanging shots during the opening minutes. The Liberty threw different looks at the Aces, including a 1-2-2 zone. Head coach Sandy Brondello also brought Marine Johannès into the game early, hoping to replicate her success against the Aces in the Commissioner’s Cup. It worked as Johannès led all scorers in the opening quarter with eight points, giving the Liberty a 25-22 lead after one.
Johannès continued her stellar night in the second quarter, draining 3 after 3, including an impressive one-legged triple off a pick and roll. The Aces liked the Jackie Young-Sabrina Ionescu matchup and utilized it at every opportunity. Young had 12 points in the first half, but the Aces still trailed by three at the break.
The Aces needed A’ja Wilson to be the best version of herself to keep up with the Liberty offense and she delivered, shooting 63.3 percent from the field for the game and scoring nine points in the third quarter. The Liberty went ice cold in the third, scoring just 16 points as Las Vegas took advantage and regained the lead. With Young scoring 12 points in the third alone, the Aces were up by seven entering the fourth.
The Liberty needed to get off to a fast start in the fourth to have a shot at coming back and winning this game, but failed to do so, going scoreless in the first three minutes of the fourth. The Aces applied pressure and went on a 6-0 run at the outset of the final frame to extend their lead to 13. New York was unable to close the gap in a significant way.
The Aces weathered the storm and were able to pull away thanks to their incredible guard play. They fixed all the issues in previous losses against New York. The Aces won the rebounding battle, scored more points in the paint and A’ja Wilson had a good game. Add in a 31 percent shooting night from 3 by the Liberty and it’s clear why the Aces came out on top.
Now the Liberty have to counter. Ionescu is unlikely to play as poorly again and Brondello will have to find a better defensive strategy against Young. Luckily for New York, they’ll have a couple of days to game plan, as Game 2 isn’t until Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET in Las Vegas on ESPN.