LAS VEGAS — A’ja Wilson remembers what it was like being swept in the WNBA Finals two years ago, and didn’t like the feeling.
Sunday, she made sure neither she nor teammates would endure being swept this time around.
Wilson collected 24 points and 11 rebounds and the Las Vegas Aces beat the Connecticut Sun 67-64 on Sunday in Game 1 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals.
“In the bubble, we were just happy to be there; and also happy to leave,” Wilson recalled of the 2020 Finals loss to the Seattle Storm. “Now in the moment, it’s like OK, we know that feeling. It sucks getting swept; it’s the worst thing ever. That’s the chip on your shoulder, that’s the fire, that’s the grind that you want to say, ‘I don’t wanna get swept anymore.’ ”
The Aces staved off a late run by the Sun, who nearly erased a seven-point deficit with 1:24 left when Alyssa Thomas made back-to-back shots to reduce Las Vegas’ lead to three points. But DeWanna Bonner’s desperation three-point attempt to tie the score fell short as time expired.
Chelsea Gray finished with 21 points for Las Vegas, while Jackie Young chipped in 11 as the franchise won a WNBA Finals game for the first time in franchise history. The team also was swept in 2008 (by Detroit), when it was based in San Antonio.
After squandering a first-quarter lead, and allowing the Sun to control the second and carry momentum in the third, the Aces outscored Connecticut 13-3 to close the third quarter and seize momentum for the final period before a frenzied crowd of 10,135.
Thomas led Connecticut with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonquel Jones added 15 points, Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12 and Natisha Hiedeman had 10.
Saturday during media day, Aces coach Becky Hammon said she was unsure if she was ready to let Dearica Hamby play. Hamby missed the final month of the regular season with a knee injury, missed the first round of the playoffs and then was used sparingly in the final two games of the semifinals.
But when Hamby came off the bench with 4:33 left in the third quarter, the two-time Sixth Woman of the Year provided an immediate spark for the Aces with three rebounds, a put-back score and two assists. “She was phenomenal, she was ready to go,” Hammon said.