LAS VEGAS — A’ja Wilson recalled the raised eyebrows when the Las Vegas Aces drafted Jackie Young with the No. 1 pick in 2019. In the years since, she’s reminded Young she has to prove herself as a rightful No. 1 pick every single night.
Young was every bit the part alongside four other former No. 1 picks, including Wilson, in Game 1 of the highly anticipated WNBA Finals battle of the super-teams Sunday. She was the best of the bunch in the first half and scored a playoff-career-high 26 points to lead the Aces to a 99-82 win against the New York Liberty at a sold-out Michelob Ultra Arena.
The Aces, a homegrown super-team of three No. 1 picks, kept it close in the first half in a performance Hammon said was a C-minus. The players gave it a D, she said. But it was Young who had them down only three, 49-46. She was 3-of-4 from the 3-point line for 12 points, trailing Plum’s team-leading 14. Hammon said she wanted Young in “Baby ’Bron mode,” fitting since LeBron James was one of the celebrities in attendance.
It was a four-point Aces lead with 12.5 seconds in the third quarter when Young completed an and-1 to go up, 72-65, before a scorching offensive conclusion from the league’s leader in scoring. Plum hit a floater and Gray drove in for the layup to make it an 11-point lead.
Heading into Game 1, she said she focused on being aggressive and confident. Young is notoriously shy, a jarring contrast to her jokester teammates who take every opportunity in news conferences to send jabs. Wilson, the No. 1 pick out of South Carolina the year prior to Young’s draft, said she makes sure she pulls confidence out of Young because of that shyness.
The Liberty›s Courtney Vandersloot struggled for much of the game, going 1-of-7 before finishing 4-of-11 for 10 points. Laney had 11 points after a hot playoff run. She came into the game having scored fewer than 19 points only once. Sabrina Ionescu couldn’t find her own 3-point spots and had seven points, shooting 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3.