Seattle is one win closer to returning to the WNBA Finals after beating Las Vegas, 76-73. Sunday’s Game 1 semifinal series between the Storm and Aces featured seven no. 1 overall picks between the opponents.
Game 1 was tightly contested between the two title contenders. So it’s only fitting that the opening game end in such a heroic fashion. Jewell Loyd (26 points and four assists) delivered that heroic finish after she hit a leftwing stepback three-pointer over A’ja Wilson (eight points, 12 rebounds, three assists).
Loyd wasn’t the only member of the Storm to post a memorable performance. Sue Bird (two points and four rebounds) became the playoffs assist queen after posting 12 assists and zero turnovers on Sunday. Tina Charles (13 points) hauled in a franchise playoff 18 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Breanna Stewart contributed 24 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks.
“When I made the decision to come here, I was just here just trying to fill in the holes,” said Charles per Swish Appeal. “And I knew that was rebounding, being the third, fourth option scoring and just taking my shots when they come to me. So for me, coming into this game, the thing I knew I could control was just being on the boards and watching their tendencies when we box out — So for me, I definitely took it personal coming into this game just to try to be on the boards, start early outlets, get second chance opportunities — I know those are always key come playoff time.”
Stewie and Loyd played a strong 1-2 game for Seattle, with the former UConn legend hitting high-arching turnaround jumpers before Loyd took over in the fourth quarter. As Seattle’s closer in Game 1, Loyd scored or assisted on the Storm’s final 12 points, including 10 points herself.
Loyd scored on a fadeaway in the paint, a short bank shot from the left side, split a pair of free throws to cut Las Vegas’ lead, and then buried a triple after forcing a Vegas turnover to give Seattle a 73-71 lead with a minute 45 to go. She subsequently hit that game-winning walk-down three over Wilson to ice Seattle’s come-from-behind win. Kelsey Plum (20 points, four rebounds, and two assists) had a chance to steal Game 1, but she missed the potential game-winner.
“I think last series she grew up a lot, tremendously,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said of Loyd, who is also known as the Gold Mamba, a nickname given to her by Kobe Bryant. “And had the same kind of cadence today, you know, rhythm. She started off good, maybe a little bit of lulls, but just ended with a lot of firepower — Some poise, making great reads, She got trapped early and she’s been trapped multiple times this year and handled it tremendously today. She continues to grow up before our eyes. I think that the last series helped with that experience and how to handle that. And she continues to make big plays for us because she’s a great player.
“Jewell is playing with a lot of confidence, and we need that. We’re not gonna be successful if Jewell’s not at her best, point blank, period. And I think she understands that, and she’s locked into that. And what’s amazing today is that she guarded (Chelsea) Gray most of the game and still able to be very effective down the stretch. She’s finding ways to help our team outside of just getting buckets. It’s the defense, it’s the steals, it’s getting in the passing lanes, it’s the energy. All of those extra little things matter.”
Seattle will look to take a 2-0 series lead over Las Vegas on Wednesday at 10 on ESPN 2.