Defense leads Storm to 76-73 Game One win

Loyd tallies 26 points, Stewart adds 24, and Charles records franchise-record 18 rebounds as Seattle wins WNBA Semifinal Game One

LAS VEGAS – Jewell Loyd scored 26 points including 10 in the fourth quarter and Tina Charles pulled down a franchise-record 18 rebounds while adding 13 points and the Seattle defense clamped down on the league’s highest scoring team as the Storm pulled out a 76-73 win over top-seeded Las Vegas in Game One of the WNBA Semifinals on Sunday afternoon at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.

Loyd continued her hot shooting of late, tallying a game-high 26 points on 10-of-19 while adding four assists and a steal. This comes just 14 days after Loyd poured in a career-high 38 on 13-of-23 shooting in a 109-100 loss to the Aces to close out the regular season.

Seattle was able to out-rebound the Aces 37-34 thanks in large part to a franchise record and personal playoff-high 18 by Charles. She also added 13 points in the game for her the eighth playoff double-double of her career and the first since the 2015 season.

Breanna Stewart continued to just score points in bunches, tallying 24 points to mark her seventh-straight playoff game with 20+ points. That ties her for the 2nd-longest streak all-time, one shy of Cappie Pondexter’s record of eight-straight games with 20+ points set back in 2010. Stewart also added six rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal.

Sue Bird posted her second-straight game with double-figure assists, tallying 12 without committing a turnover. Her 12th assist of the game moved her into first place on the WNBA’s all-time playoff assists list with 342, moving her past Lindsey Whalen for the top spot. She also became the third player to record 12+ assists without committing a turnover in a playoff game (Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, 8/30/1999, Diana Taurasi, 8/21/2018).

The budding rivalry between the Storm and Aces has produced a number of exciting games this season and today’s game was no exception. Seattle jumped out to an early lead and led by as many as 12. The Aces didn’t go away quietly, taking its first lead of the game with 6:15 to go in the fourth. The Aces would lead by as many as three, the last of which came with 3:44 to go, but the Storm took back the lead on a three-pointer by Loyd with 1:45 to play. The Aces tied it back up quickly on the next trip down the court only to see Seattle take back the lead with a free throw with 1:16 left. The Storm would seal the deal with a step back jumper by Loyd with 34.6 seconds left and played great defense down the stretch as Vegas missed two shots and committed a turnover on its three possessions over the final minute of the game.

Seattle got off to a hot start, using an early 7-0 run to go up 13-4 at the 6:38 mark. But the Storm defense would hold Vegas without a point over nearly six minutes, building the lead to 15-4 before the Aces broke the scoreless streak with a bucket at the 2:36 mark and closed to within seven before Seattle ran it back to 12 and held a 26-15 lead after one.

The Storm still maintained an 11-point lead 2:30 into the second quarter when they went cold, missing seven-straight from the field as Las Vegas used an 8-0 to make it 30-27 Storm with 3:46 before the half. After a back and forth two minutes, Seattle stretched the lead back to nine on a Charles putback followed by a three-pointer from Loyd. The Storm would close the half hitting 5-of-6 and took a 43-36 lead to the break.

In the third, the Aces continued to get close, using an early 7-0 run to pull within two with 6:22 to go in the period. The Storm would stretch the lead back to six and then see the Aces close to within two again moments later. The last of those came thanks to three-straight fastbreak buckets by the Storm with Loyd earning a trip to the line for an old-fashioned three-point play to give Seattle a 58-51 lead with 2:09 to play.

The Storm led 60-57 as the teams headed to the fourth and went up 64-59 at the 7:13 mark on a pair of Stewart free throws. Las Vegas responded with back-to-back three-pointers by Kelsey Plum and Riquana Williams to take their first lead of the game and set up the wild finish.

The victory was the first by Seattle in Las Vegas since the 2018 season when the Storm beat the Aces in the first-ever meeting between the two in Vegas. It also marked Seattle’s fourth-straight playoff win over the Aces after the Storm swept Las Vegas in the 2020 WNBA Finals. Seattle also improves to 15-4 in playoff games with Stewart in the lineup and has won 13-straight postseason games with Stewart on the court.

The two teams resume the series on Wednesday night with Game Two in Las Vegas. Tipoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. at Michelob Ultra Arena and the game can be seen on ESPN2.