LAS VEGAS (October 8, 2023)—A strong second-half defense and four players in double figures helped the Las Vegas Aces earn their WNBA Finals Game 1 victory over the New York Liberty 99-82 on Sunday afternoon at Michelob ULTRA Arena. Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young each scored a career playoff-high 26 points, Chelsea Gray celebrated her 31st birthday with 20 points and 9 assists and A’ja Wilson added 19 points and 8 rebounds. Breanna Stewart led New York with 21 points.
First Quarter Highlights (New York 25, Las Vegas 22)
The Aces took a 16-10 lead midway through the 1st quarter thanks in part to 4 3-pointers, but the Liberty countered with a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the game. Young led the Aces with 8 points and Marine Johannés had 8 off the bench for the Liberty. The Aces shot 45% from the floor in the quarter, while the Liberty hit 52.9% of their field goal attempts. Both teams made 4 of 9 from 3-point.
Second Quarter Highlights (New York 49, Las Vegas 46)
The Liberty retained the lead until a 7-0 run by the Aces tied the score at 35-all at 4:07. The Liberty halted the run with a 3-pointer and for the remainder of the quarter neither team scored more than 3 consecutive points. Plum led the Aces with 9 points, while Jonquel Jones had 8 for the Liberty. The home squad connected on 53.8% of their tries from the floor and the visitors hit an even 50% of theirs. New York outrebounded the Aces 10-5, including 4-0 on the offensive glass. Las Vegas scored 8 points off 5 New York turnovers and gave up just 2 points off 2 of its own miscues.
Third Quarter Highlights (Las Vegas 72, New York 65)
After a 2 from the Liberty to start the 3rd, the Aces scored 5-straight to even things up, 51-51. With the Liberty ahead by 1, 55-54, the Aces scored the next 6 to move ahead 60-55 at 5:22. The Aces hit 5 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 from 3-point, while the Liberty were held to 3 of 9 from the floor and 0 of 2 from 3 in the first 4:38 of the quarter. The Aces never trailed again. Young scored 12 points and Wilson had 9 for the Aces, while Stewart notched 8 for the Liberty. In all, the Aces hit 60% of their field goal attempts and held the Liberty to 36.8% and 0 of 4 from afar over the quarter.
Fourth Quarter Highlights (Las Vegas 99, New York 82)
The Aces went up by as many as 22 points, 94-72, with 3:32 to play. The Liberty strung together an 8-0 spurt late in the period, but never really threatened. Plum scored a high of 10 points in the frame, while Gray had 9. Courtney Vandersloot had 7 for the Liberty. The Aces shot a sizzling 62.5% from the field in the quarter and the visitors made 46.7% of theirs. The Aces outrebounded the Liberty 9-5.
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The Aces connected on 54.7% of their field goal attempts and 40.9% from distance, while the Liberty shot 46.4% overall and 31% beyond the arc.
In the second half, the Aces connected on 61.3% of their shots from the field including 40% from 3-point while holding New York to 41.2% from the field and 1 of 9 from 3-point. They also outrebounded the Liberty 19-13 and outscored them 24-12 in the paint.
Las Vegas made 20 of 23 free throws while New York went 9 for 13.
Each team committed 11 turnovers, off of which the Aces scored 16 points to the Liberty’s 6.
The Aces outscored the Liberty 42-32 points in the paint.
The Liberty outscored the Aces 17-8 off the bench.
The Liberty’s Jonquel Jones recorded the lone double-double of the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Aces have won 7-straight playoff games, which is tied for the 5th longest streak in WNBA history (9, Los Angeles, 2001-2002; Minnesota, 2013-2014).
Chelsea Gray moved into 5th place in the WNBA’s career postseason assists chart with 9 dimes today, and she now has 251 for her playoff career. She is also now tied for 3rd in WNBA history for most assists in the finals with 76. This marked the 6th time Gray dished out 9 or more assists in a playoff game.
Jackie Young’s 26 points is a playoff career-high (22 vs Connecticut, Sept. 15, 2022).
Young has scored in double figures in 8-straight playoff contests and this was her 18th double-figure scoring effort in 34 playoff games. It also marked the second time she’s scored 20+ points.
Gray’s 20 points marked her 16th overall playoff game scoring 20 or more points, including 3 times in 2023.
Kelsey Plum’s 26 points is a new playoff career-high. She scored 25 points three times, last vs Dallas on Sept. 24, 2023.
Plum has scored 20+ points in 10 of 26 playoff games, including twice in 2023.
Wilson has scored in double figures (19 points) in 29 of 34 career playoff games.
The 99 points are the most scored in franchise history for a Finals game and 4th-most ever in franchise playoff history (117 points vs Phoenix, Aug. 20, 2022).
The Aces scored 90 or more points 31 times in 46 games this year including the postseason.
The Aces and Liberty will return to Michelob ULTRA Arena for Game 2 on Wednesday, October 11. The series then moves to New York for Game 3 on October 15. If necessary, Game 4 will be played in New York on October 18 and if there is a Game 5, it will be played in Las Vegas on October 20.