UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Connecticut rookie Lindsay Whalen played with the guile of a veteran Friday night, leading the Sun to a 68-64 victory over the Seattle Storm in the opening game of the WNBA Finals.
Whalen set a team playoff mark with nine assists, had 11 points, two steals, two blocked shots and helped shut down Seattle guard Sue Bird.
Whalen set the tone for the Sun's solid defensive play, which kept Lauren Jackson, the league's leading scorer, in check for most of the night. The Sun had 15 steals, blocked six shots and had just enough of a cushion to hold off Seattle's late rally from a 16-point deficit.
Both teams are making their first appearance in the finals. The Sun took advantage of their only home game in the best-of-three series, drawing a sellout crowd. Game 2 is at Seattle on Sunday and Game 3, if necessary, will be Tuesday.
Katie Douglas led Connecticut with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and made two free throws with 16 seconds left.
Betty Lennox had 17 points for Seattle and Jackson finished with 16. Jackson scored six in the closing minutes.
The Sun harassed Jackson throughout the first half, bumping her off her cuts and doubling up when she got the ball. But Jackson made the most of her few free looks, draining both of her 3-point attempts and finished with eight points at the half.
Connecticut dominated inside early, working the ball down low to Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Wendy Palmer-Daniel who combined for 14 points in the half. The Sun led by as many as six but Lennox hit four straight jumpers midway in the period to give Seattle its first lead, 18-17 with 10:44 remaining.
Connecticut used a 10-2 run in the closing minutes to go back up 31-25, but Bird and Jackson hit consecutive baskets to get within two. Douglas, who briefly left with a sprained ankle, returned in the final minute and capped the scoring with jumper from the wing to give the Sun a 33-29 halftime lead.