WNBA Finals: Jackie Young Leads Las Vegas Aces to Game 1 Victory

Posted on: October 9, 2023, 12:29h. 

Last updated on: October 9, 2023, 01:44h.

The Las Vegas Aces won Game 1 of the 20023 WNBA Finals and took a 1-0 series lead over the New York Liberty. Guard Jackie Young dropped 26 points for Aces and played stifling defense in a 99-82 victory.

Jackie Young Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young drives the lane against New York Liberty point guard Courtney Vandersloot in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. (Image: Getty)

The Aces took an early lead in the best-of-five championship series featuring two of the WNBA’s super teams. They did not squander home-court advantage in Sin City at Michelob ULTRA Arena at the Mandalay Bay Casino. The Aces had the best home record in the WNBA this season at 19-1, and improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

The Liberty had the second-best record in the WNBA this season at 32-8 overall, but they boasted the league’s best road record at 17-3. Despite their proficiency on the road, the Liberty lost the first game of the series by 17 points.

The Aces host Game 2 at home on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. They opened as a -5 favorite over the Liberty in Game 2. The Liberty seek to tie up the series before they return to Brooklyn for Game 3 next Sunday.

The Aces saw their WNBA futures increase to -400 odds to win the championship in back-to-back seasons. The Liberty are now +320 odds to rally back and win their franchise’s first title.

Jackie Young Shines for Aces on Both Ends of Court

The Aces anticipated the Liberty would pack the paint and double team leading scorer A’Ja Wilson at every possibility. The Liberty also wanted to contain Chelsea Gray, which provided the Aces with ample scoring opportunities for point guard Kelsey Plum and shooting guard Young.

We knew that they would focus on A’ja and Chelsea,” said Young. “Just being aggressive, they weren’t guarding us. They have to take something away, so we just had to stay ready.”

Young and Plum led the Aces with 26 points each. Along with Gray, the Aces’ potent triple-guard offense contributed 72 points. The Liberty scored 82 points as a team compared to the explosive triumvirate of Young, Plum, and Gray.

Young shot 9-of-15 from the field including five 3-pointers. Plum shot 10-for-19 from the field. Gray shot 6-for-13 with three treys.

Wilson scored 19 points on an efficient 7-for-11 from the floor. She added eight rebounds, three blocks, and two assists in the victory.

Head coach Becky Hammon relied on a six-player rotation in the WNBA Finals, with forward Candace Parker out with a foot injury. Four starters logged at least 35 minutes for the Aces in Game 1. Forward Alysha Clark, the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, scored eight points in 22 minutes off the bench.

Rough Night for Liberty and Sabrina Ionescu

The Aces did not let the Liberty’s star backcourt get too comfortable in Game 1. Young played lockdown defense on shooting guard Sabrina Ionescu.

Ionescu averaged 17 points per game this season, but she averaged  19.4 in five games against the Aces.  Young was on a mission to shut down Ionescu, who only got off seven shots and missed five of them. Ionescu shot 1-for-5 from 3-point range, and finished Game 1 with only seven points.

It’s my role every night to go out there and guard the best perimeter player on the other team,” said Young. “I take a lot of pride in that, just trying to get stops.”

Young credited Wilson in the paint, who was able to provide help defense, which allowed her to play extra aggressive on the perimeter.

“At the end of the day, I have A’ja, the defensive player of the year, behind me,” added Young. “That gives me a lot of confidence to be able to get up and pressure the guards.”

The Aces also harassed All-Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Vandersloot missed seven shots, including three 3-point attempts. The Aces also didn’t want Betnijah Laney to catch fire. Laney had been red-hot from beyond the arc with a 43.8% success rate in the playoffs. Laney scored 11 points in Game 1, and missed all three of her 3-point attempts.

Breanna Stewart, the league’s reigning MVP, scored a team-high 21 points and added nine rebounds for the Liberty in the loss.