The defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm opened the regular season win a 97-83 win over the Las Vegas Aces, the opponent they swept in the 2020 WNBA Finals. Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 28 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, her first double-double of the 2021 season.
The Aces (0-1) jumped out to a 17-8 lead midway through the first quarter but a Jordin Canada basket as the buzzer sounded would give the Storm (1-0) a 27-26 lead at the end of the frame. Canada finished with six points and six assists off the bench. The Storm would not trail the rest of the way and would lead by as much as 19 points in the third quarter.
The Aces pulled back within nine points after a Chelsea Gray 3-pointer with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, 82-73. The Storm responded with 7-2 run to push their lead back to 14 points. Gray finished her Aces debut with seven points and three assists.
There was a bit of scary moment late in the fourth quarter when Sue Bird went down after a blocking foul by Liz Cambage. Bird grabbed her left knee but was able to walk off the court and went into the locker room. Luckily for the Storm, the injury did not keep Bird from returning and she was able to finish the game.
Jewell Loyd (22 points, six assists), Candice Dupree (12 points, five rebounds), and Bird (11 points, eight assists) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Storm. They were able to get out in transition as they scored 19 fast break points and 10 points off of six forced turnovers.
Bird said after the game, “I know we’ve lost a lost (of players) and I love every single one of those players who came in, but people forget we have Stewie and Jewell.”
For the Aces, 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson showed she is still in form, as she led the team with 24 points. Additionally, Wilson made her first ever 3-point shot as a professional. In her return to the WNBA, Liz Cambage scored 16 points and recorded five rebounds. Jackie Young scored 12 points and Kelsey Plum added 11 points off the bench. Plum played her first minutes after missing the 2020 season due to an Achilles injury.
The Storm may have a some new faces but played the game we have become accustomed to seeing them play since their leap in 2018. Ezi Magbegor, who played in just five games last season, got meaningful minutes on the court and was tasked with guarding Cambage. Magbegor’s presence loomed much larger than her seven points and four rebounds might suggest. Katie Lou Samuelson started for the Storm but took just three shots, making two of them. However, she collected six rebounds and played with great energy. She forced a jump ball and was later credited with a steal in the middle of the Storm’s 10-0 run to start the second half.
Despite talk about 3-point shooting, the Aces showed that their focus is getting points inside the painted area. They led the league with 42.7 points in the paint in 2020 and opened 2021 by scoring 48 points in the paint. Newcomer Riquna Williams had a debut to forget, as she was just 1-of-6 from the floor and 0-of-3 on shots from beyond the arc. Williams shot 42 percent on 3-point shots in 2020 for the Los Angeles Sparks. The Aces will need to find a way to keep up with high scoring offenses.
The Storm and the Aces will wrap up their two-game mini-series on Tuesday, May 18 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.