The Las Vegas Aces were happy they won the opener of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, but they were not satisfied with the level of their play in a 67-64 victory.
The top-seeded Aces will look for improvement in Game 2 of the best-of-five series on Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded Sun remain confident that they can level the series by repeating their performance, in which they held the high-powered Las Vegas offense to a season low in scoring. Connecticut needed to change just a few key plays in the second half to flip the outcome.
“We have to have a lot of confidence,” said Alyssa Thomas, who led the Sun with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. “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.”
A second defeat Tuesday night would make the series more than just hard for the Sun, who are in the WNBA Finals for the fourth time, looking for their first championship. The Aces are also looking for their first title, making their third Finals appearance.
Sunday’s outcome was in doubt until Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining.
“Happy that we won,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “It’s better than losing.”
Hammon upbraided her team with an intense halftime speech after they fell behind 38-34.
“Points in the paint, rebounding, hustle points, transition points, second-chance points,” Hammon said, “we didn’t do any of them — until the second half.”
After taking a 25-17 lead after the first quarter, the Aces went cold as Connecticut raced through a 21-9 dominant second quarter for a four-point halftime lead.
After halftime, Las Vegas outscored Connecticut the rest of the way, 33-26.
For the game, Las Vegas shot just 39.7 percent (23 of 58) from the floor and 20.8 percent (5 of 24) on 3-pointers.
The biggest edge for Las Vegas came at the foul line, where the Aces outscored the Sun 16-3. Las Vegas made 16 of 19 free throws; Connecticut made three of five.
“The big stat line difference was their ability to get to the foul line and play through contact,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We struggled to get to the foul line and any kind of offensive rhythm there in the second half, and that’s a credit to their defense.”
The Aces, who averaged 80.6 points in the regular season, got 24 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals from A’ja Wilson, who received her second WNBA MVP award before the game.
Game 3 is Thursday in Uncasville, Conn.
–Field Level Media