UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Lindsay Whalen made the most of the biggest game of her professional career. The rookie guard led the Connecticut Sun to a 68-64 victory over the Seattle Storm last night in the opening game of the WNBA Finals.
She set a team playoff mark with 9 assists and had 11 points, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots. Whalen also helped shut down Storm star Sue Bird, who finished with six turnovers and had 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
"We know we're a good team and as long as we play the right way and share the ball, we should be in position," Whalen said.
Many of the 9,341 fans in the sellout crowd had watched Bird star at UConn, where she won two NCAA titles. She drew a deafening roar during introductions, but after the opening tip, the Sun took her out of her comfort zone. "They forced us to do things that we were not necessarily wanting to do or used to doing," Bird said.
"More than anything, I thought their transition killed us."
Whalen, who led Minnesota to its first Final Four appearance last season, kept the Sun's transition game in high gear. She also set the tone for the solid defense that kept Lauren Jackson, the league's leading scorer, in check for most of the night.
"They really dictated the tempo tonight," Storm coach Anne Donovan said.
The Sun had a Finals-record 15 steals, blocked six shots, and had just enough of a cushion to hold off Seattle's late rally from a 16-point deficit.
The Sun took advantage of their only home game in the best-of-three series, drawing a raucous crowd that included Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell.
"It was live today. It made it easier to play," Sun forward Nykesha Sales said. "There was a lot of energy, a lot of excitement."
Game 2 is at Seattle tomorrow 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 had 16.