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WNBA Finals: Breanna Stewart lifts Storm to Game 1 win over Aces

Seattle's Breanna Stewart shoots over Las Vegas' Jackie Young and A'ja Wilson in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Oct. 2, 2020.
Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, who scored 37 points, shoots over Las Vegas’ Jackie Young and A’ja Wilson during Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Friday in Bradenton, Fla.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

Breanna Stewart scored 37 points, including 11 to start the fourth quarter, to help the Seattle Storm beat the Las Vegas Aces 93-80 in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Friday night.

Jewell Loyd added 28 points, and Sue Bird had a WNBA playoff-record 16 assists. Bird had 10 assists in the first half to also break that playoff record. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Sunday.

Stewart added 15 rebounds and four blocks. She was a point short of the WNBA Finals record set by Angel McCoughtry.

“I’m excited for the big moment and the big stage. I expect to be here,” Stewart said. “Been here whether it’s college, WNBA or USA. Continuing to embrace that moment and take advantage of it. This is why I play basketball. This is why I play — to have big games to help my team in big moments.”

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With Seattle holding a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter after a huge Las Vegas rally, Stewart took over.

She scored the first 11 points of the period to restore a double-digit advantage The 2018 league MVP, who missed last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, hit three three-pointers in the game-changing burst.

Several of the Sparks’ top players, including Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, are unrestricted free agents, leading to offseason uncertainty.

“She got that look in her eyes that she’ll take over,” Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Hit some threes, got inside, got to the line. It was fabulous down the stretch.”

McCoughtry scored 20 points to lead Las Vegas, playing in the WNBA Finals for the first time since the franchise moved to the Nevada city three years ago. The team was in the Finals in 2008 when it was located in San Antonio. A’ja Wilson, the league’s MVP, added 19 points.

The Aces also lost the first game of their semifinal series to Connecticut before winning in five games.

“We’ve just got to buckle down and lock in from the start,” Wilson said. “There’s no guarantee this series is the exact same. Now we see the looks we were getting, and [we’ve] got to knock those down.“

Seattle is trying to become the third team to win four titles, joining Houston and Minnesota. The Storm were champions in 2004, 2010 and 2018.

The Storm trailed 34-31 with 6:26 left in the second quarter before going on a 26-6 run to close the half. Stewart and Loyd combined for 17 points during that spurt as Seattle scored the first 14 points in the burst.

Breanna Stewart’s 37 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks lead Seattle to Game 1 victory in WNBA Finals.

Seattle increased the lead to 19 to start the third quarter, but the Aces rallied with a huge run of their own to tie it at 67 just before the end of the quarter.

“We came out flat,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We worked so hard to come back into the game, it took to a lot out of us.”

Helping hand: Bird broke the playoff assists record of 14 she held with Courtney Vandersloot of Chicago. Eight players had reached 11 assists in a Finals game before Bird’s record performance.

“I think Stewie and Jewell were pretty much on fire,” Bird said. “The way our team plays and the offense was constructed dates back to when Jenny Boucek was our coach. We move it in a way to create opportunity as a point guard trying to find the open player. Assists is a two-person thing, and those two played amazing.”

Best seller: Bird had the top-selling jersey in the WNBA this season, the league announced earlier Friday. It’s the first time in her career that the Storm guard led the list. Wilson was sixth on the list and Stewart seventh. The Storm were the overall leader as far as popularity in merchandise. The Aces were fourth on the list.

Missing: Both teams will be without key reserves in the finals. Dearica Hamby, the WNBA sixth woman of the year, injured her knee in the semifinals against Connecticut and is not expected to play in the championship series. Seattle sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb left the bubble to be with her wife as she gives birth to the couple’s first child.


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