Game 1 of the 2020 WNBA Finals did not disappoint!
It was a fast-paced game between the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces Friday night.
And just as expected, it was a physical battle as Seattle defeated Las Vegas 93-80 in the first game of the best-of-five series.
Seattle took care of business by taking care of the ball. The Storm committed just eight turnovers for the game.
"You desperately want to get that first one, especially in a five-game series,” Storm head coach Gary Kloppenburg said following Friday's win. “We can’t rest on these guys.”
It was as if the Storm may have been resting on the Aces early on though.
Las Vegas jumped out to an 8-0 lead thanks to multiple chances down low after dominating on the offensive glass.
Las Vegas had 10 more field goal attempts than Seattle in the first quarter.
But, after a slow start, the Storm bounced back to take a 23-21 lead after the first 10 minutes of action.
It was the superstars of the Finals that put on a show.
Sue Bird, who is undefeated in Finals appearances, showed her veteran leadership and ability to find her teammates while helping the Storm collect themselves after the Aces came out with their first-finals-appearance excitement.
Within the first seven minutes of action Friday, Bird had dished out six assists.
Bird and Breanna Stewart’s strong connection was once again on display.
Bird and Stewart in transition is a beautiful thing.
In the win, Stewart finished with 37 points, 15 rebounds, and two assists. She is the first WNBA player to have at least 35 points and 15 rebounds in a Finals game.
“A pretty complete game” is how Stewart’s coach described her performance.
All the while, Storm guard Jewell Loyd was her consistent scoring self from the jump. Loyd notched 28 points for the game after recording 19 in the first half.
For Vegas, A'ja Wilson, this year’s WNBA MVP, and Angel McCoughtry have been two big pieces in the Aces’ success heading into the Finals.
Friday was no different.
It was McCoughtry who got it going early. The five-time All-Star forward was a perfect 4-for-4 from long distance to start the game, scoring 12 points in her first nine minutes. McCoughtry had 20 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
After starting off 1-of-9 from the field, Wilson’s offensive was key in the second half for the Aces. Willson finished with 19 points.
Midway through the second quarter, Seattle went on a 14-0 run which helped the Storm take a 57-40 halftime lead despite Las Vegas’ hot three-point shooting and extra possessions.
But the Aces came alive in the third.
After being down by as many as 19 points, Wilson and Las Vegas limited the Storm’s fastbreak opportunities and hit at the other end of the floor.
It was just a two-point Seattle lead heading into the fourth.
Wilson finished the third quarter with 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting while also getting to the free throw line (7-of-8).
Once the fourth quarter was underway, it was evident that Bird and Stewart were not going to let their big first-half lead go to waste.
The Seattle duo took over in the final period.
Stewart was hitting from inside and out with ease.
While Bird was directing traffic and putting her teammates in great positions to score. Bird finished with a Finals and playoff record 16 assists, a new personal playoff career-high.
“Assists is a two-person thing and tonight [Jewell and Breanna] played amazing,” Bird said.
Bird compared Stewart’s historical performance to a 40+ point- game from her former teammate Lauren Jackson.
The 18-year veteran knew Stewart’s game was special.
Stewart, the 2018 MVP, gave Bird and the rest of her teammates a lot of the credit to her late scoring tear.
Coach Kloppenburg tried to think of another playoff performance as complete as Stewarts that he has witnessed and coached, but he wasn't able to compare her postseason game to anyone else's immediately after Friday's win.
But he did know this for certain:
Seattle outscored Las Vegas in the fourth 24-13 as they now look ahead to Sunday's contest.
Game 2 between the Storm and Aces will tip-off at noon PT Sunday on ABC.