The Las Vegas Aces entered halftime of the opening game of the WNBA Finals in need of a spark, and coach Becky Hammon provided.
A rough showing in the first half against the Connecticut Sun prompted a self-proclaimed “lit” halftime speech from Hammon. The Aces emerged from the break fired up, and they roared to a 67-64 win in front of a record crowd.
Las Vegas trailed Connecticut 38-34 at halftime after a 21-9 run by the Sun.
“I can try to push and prepare all the right ways but at the end of the day, they have to decide they are going to go out and do it, and they did,” Hammon said. “It felt like we had to get punched in the face before we reacted, you know, you can take a little stinger, and then all of a sudden, have your attention, and they woke up.”
The Aces were outhustled by the Sun, which “can’t happen,” Hammon said.
“I was lit… You can’t lose a championship or a game or a quarter on hustle,” she said. “That can never be the case.”
Aces guard Chelsea Gray concurred, on all counts.
“It was lit,” Chelsea Gray said of the halftime speech, noting that she couldn’t recount it in full because there were “children watching.”
“She was just on us to play our style defensively,” Gray said. “Offensively, we were letting them get offensive rebounds, easy scores, turning over the ball.”
Las Vegas responded, scoring 33 points in the second half and holding the Sun to 26.
A’ja Wilson led all scorers with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Gray had 21 points. Dearica Hamby proved to be a difference-maker, helping Vegas go up by four points after they were down by six.
“She was huge for us,” Gray said. “She was making all the right plays. Just the little things, she sparked it for us and that is where it was a turning point and we really took control of the game. It was all energy, heart, effort. That’s hard to do.
“She was cold, too. She didn’t have a warmup where she came into the game. She came in right away and was effective.”
Hamby also impressed the opposite bench.
“Those minutes were big, and it was the intangibles, the hustles and the rebounds,” said Sun head coach Curt Miller. “She runs the floor in transition. We’ve got mismatches. Nothing shows up in a stat sheet for her that way, but her effort creates mismatches right away in transition to their advantage.”
The Aces will bring a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday night, while the Sun are left playing catch-up in the WNBA Finals.
The @LVAces take Game 1. #WNBAFinals pic.twitter.com/YLODJS2xkv— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) September 11, 2022
The @LVAces take Game 1. #WNBAFinals pic.twitter.com/YLODJS2xkv