Holding a seven-point lead with 1:24 left, the Las Vegas Aces seemed to be coasting to a victory until Alyssa Thomas sunk back-to-back shots to pull the Connecticut Sun back within three.
But the Aces’ defense ultimately held firm, thwarting DeWanna Bonners’ desperate attempt to tie the game with a three pointer as time ran out.
Led by MVP A’ja Wilson, who contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds, alongside Chelsea Gray with 21 points and three assists, Las Vegas closed out its first WNBA Finals game victory in franchise history with a 67-64 win over Connecticut.
“Coming from being swept and actually getting one,” Wilson said, according to Sky Sports. “Pretty happy about this one. Not going to dwell on it long as we have a really tough Game 2 coming up.”
In front of a record crowd of 10,135, Las Vegas began brightly, amassing an eight point lead by the end of the first quarter.
Connecticut showed no signs of fatigue, however, following its five-game semifinals series win against the defending champion Chicago and mounted a comeback in the second quarter to finish the half four points ahead while the Aces shot just 3 for 15.
“Oh, I was lit,” Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon said, recalling her halftime talk after her side had let a lead slip, according to ESPN. “Because everything we had talked about, we didn’t do any of it. And true to form, they just step up and do it then.
“I don’t even yell in my real life. But when you feel so strongly about how you have to play a certain way … and you don’t execute it, it’s frustrating. But at the end of the day, they know it. They are smart. They get it.”
In response, the Aces outscored Connecticut 13-3 in the third quarter to regain control of the game but carried only a slender two-point lead into the decisive fourth.
Gray then opened the scoring with a stunning 17-foot pullup jump shot to put her team four points clear with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining, continuing the point guard’s remarkable postseason in which she has averaged 24 points per game and served as the distributor for the Aces with a 41.4 assist percentage.
Despite a late flurry from Connecticut, Las Vegas held on to take a 1-0 lead in the playoff series and edge a game closer to the WNBA title.
Game 2 will take place on Wednesday where the Sun will be seeking to overturn its deficit.
“I mean, after this game, we have to have a lot of confidence,” Thomas said, who topscored for the Sun with 19 points. “This is a three-point game, and we had a chance to tie.
“There are some things we can clean up. Of course, we can make more shots, but overall we played a hard game.”