LAS VEGAS — Family Business.
In other words, when it comes to whatever it was LeBron James had to say to A’ja Wilson at halftime of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, or what future Hall of Famer Candace Parker was chirping about during a timeout, is “none of your business.”
“It’s a little bit of everything, but the biggest thing that I can share …. it ain’t nothing that I’ve never heard before – but it really is family business,” Wilson said.
The pep talks worked, as the Las Vegas Aces erased a 49-46 halftime deficit, outscored the New York Liberty 14-6 to start the third quarter, and cruised to a 99-82 victory to open a 1-0 series lead.
Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum each scored 26 points, while Chelsea Gray added 20 on her 31st birthday, inching the defending champs closer to their second straight championship.
“It was a really nice combination,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “Our trio of guards were pretty ridiculous.”
Wilson, meanwhile, finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Five Liberty players finished with double figures, including league MVP Breanna Stewart, who led New York with 21 points.
Jonquel Jones registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Marine Johannes came off the bench to score 14.
Sabrina Ionescu, who just 2 1/2 months ago won the 3-point shootout in the same arena, entered the Finals averaging 16.3 points in the playoffs, but was held to a mere seven points for the game.
“Their defense was as good as I’ve ever seen it,” New York coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’ve got to play with better poise and we can exploit it the next time.”
Losing a series opener is nothing new for the Liberty, who lost Game 1 of their semifinal series by 15 points to last year’s Eastern Conference finalist, the Connecticut Sun.
“We haven’t lost two in a row all season long, and we’re going to know that we responded the right way,” Brondello added. “I trust these players.”
In their nine losses this season – both in the regular season and playoffs – the Liberty are 9-0 and have won by an average margin of 14.8 points per victory.
The Aces, however, are now 6-0 in the postseason. They’ve won their playoff games by an average margin of 15.1 points per game.
Though Hammon said during her pregame press conference she didn’t think Game 1 would play out like any of the four regular-season meetings, and the Commissioner’s Cup championship – in which the closest outcome was nine points – the Liberty couldn’t answer Las Vegas’ second-half surge and the game was never close once the Aces took control.
The Aces’ biggest lead was 22 points with 3:32 left in the game.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Wednesday back at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.