LAS VEGAS – It was just one game, but what a game.
The WNBA semifinals series opener was better than advertised as the No. 4 seed Storm and No. 1 Las Vegas Aces traded improbable shots and highlight baskets for 40 minutes Sunday afternoon in front of a record sold-out crowd at Michelob ULTRA Arena.
At the end, Jewell Loyd took over and scored the final six points for the Storm, including a long jumper with 34.6 seconds left, to deliver a 76-73 upset victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Loyd was brilliant while tallying a game-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Breanna Stewart was equally magnificent with 24 points and six rebounds, while Tina Charles finished with 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting and 18 rebounds.
The Storm led for most of the game until Riquana Williams’ three-pointer from the corner gave the Aces their first lead (65-64) with a little more than six minutes remaining.
Las Vegas led 67-64 when Loyd went to work and scored 10 of the last 12 points for Seattle.
Down 71-70, Loyd drained a three-pointer to go up 73-71 with 1:45 left.
After Chelsea Gray, who had a team-high 21 points, tied it on the ensuing possession, Loyd put Seattle up again with a free throw.
Seconds later, Loyd delivered a dagger and drained a long contested jumper for the final basket.
Las Vegas had a chance to force overtime, but Kelsey Plum’s three-pointer missed the mark. The former Washington Huskies star finished with 20 points.Game 2 is Wednesday in Las Vegas.
The Aces converted just 2 of their first 13 shots and Seattle raced out to a 15-4 lead behind a balanced attack led by Talbot, Stewart and Loyd.
The Storm led by 12 points (22-10) and was up 26-15 after the first quarter.
It was just the fourth time this season the Aces trailed by double digits and they lost the previous three games.
Predictably, Las Vegas made a run in the second quarter and trimmed its deficit to 30-27 when Seattle answered with a 13-9 run capped by Stewart’s a gorgeous shimmy shake and a step-back jumper to take a 43-36 lead into halftime.
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