LAS VEGAS – Seattle Storm will be without striker Gabby Williams for the first game of the WNBA Series semifinals against Las Vegas on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN). Williams was injured in Storm’s first round match against Washington on August 21 and is still subject to concussion protocol.
Williams, in her first season with Seattle, was one of the Storm players, along with goalkeeper Jeel Lloyd, to start every game of the season before she got hurt.
“It changes having another playmaker on the ground and who we can defend against so many people,” Storm coach Noel Quinn said on Saturday of Williams’ absence. “It changes a lot, frankly. Gabe is playing at a high level, and we were really dependent on her sport, her defence, her pieces. She is a very smart basketball player and feels very comfortable in our system.”
A former UConn star, Williams played her first three seasons in the WNBA with Chicago, which drafted her number four in 2018. Her contract was suspended by Sky in 2021 due to her commitment to the French national team. Then she was traded to Los Angeles, and had to sit out the whole last WNBA season. However, she played for France at the Tokyo Olympics, won a bronze medal and led the team in points and rebounds in the match for third place.
In February, Williams traded in Seattle for former UConn teammate Katie Lou Samuelson and the 2022 draft pick. The 5-foot-11 Williams provided storm passes defensively and averaged 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists during the regular season.
This series would have given her a chance to play again in her home state of Nevada, as she did twice during the regular season. There’s no word yet on whether Williams will be available for Wednesday 2 game here in Las Vegas. If not, her next chance to play will be Game 3 in Seattle on September 4.
“Gabi has been doing everything on earth for us,” Quinn said. “But what our team has is tournament-level experience with all our players. We will depend on that.”
The Storm still has plenty of depth in terms of who could fill in for Williams, including guards Briann January, Epiphany Prince and forward Stephanie Talbot. But Williams’ ability to protect the perimeter and slow the penetration is something the storm will miss, especially given how well the Las Vegas Rangers play.
Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Bloom each averaged 22.0 points in the Aces’ first-round series, and Jackie Young averaged 15.5 points. All shots are pretty good off the field in their Phoenix sweep, but Gray has been particularly smoldering: 75.0% overall and 76.9% from behind the arc in both games.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas is still without starting striker Derica Hamby, who also missed the first-round streak, due to a contusion to her right knee. Everyone is ready to go to the Aces.
Gray said the Aces will need to step up in the face of the Storm, who went against them 3-1 in the regular season. The team’s last meeting here was at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, where the Aces won the regular season final 109-100 on August 14.
Gray said of 17 gifts during Las Vegas’ 88-78 loss in Seattle on June 29: “The game we lost to them, we delivered the ball a lot. They’re a good team, they have a dynamic. They’re scorers, and they bounced the heck off the ball against us.”
“Gabi picks up the ball, and her height disrupts a lot of things defensively. Offensively, she’s always cutting; she’s doing her job perfectly. So we’ll see who ties in there.”