LAS VEGAS -- The Seattle Storm will be without starting forward Gabby Williams for Game 1 of their WNBA semifinal series against Las Vegas on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN). Williams was injured in the Storm's clinching game of the first round against Washington on Aug. 21 and is still in concussion protocol.
Williams, in her first season with Seattle, was one of two Storm players, along with guard Jewell Loyd, to start every game this season before she was hurt.
"It changes us having another playmaker on the floor, and who we can put defensively on multiple people," Storm coach Noelle Quinn said Saturday of Williams' absence. "It changes a lot, honestly. Gabby has been playing at a high level, and we've been really reliant on her athleticism, her defense, her cutting. She's a very smart basketball player and she feels comfortable in our system."
The former UConn standout Williams played her first three WNBA seasons with Chicago, which drafted her No. 4 in 2018. Her contract was suspended by the Sky in 2021 because of her commitment to the French national team. Then she was traded to Los Angeles, having to sit out all of last WNBA season. However, she played for France in the Tokyo Olympics, winning a bronze medal and leading the team in points and rebounds in that third-place game.
In February, Williams was traded to Seattle for former UConn teammate Katie Lou Samuelson and a 2022 draft pick. The 5-foot-11 Williams gave the Storm a lift 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 is no word yet on whether Williams might be available for Wednesday's Game 2 here in Las Vegas. If not, her next chance to play would be Game 3 in Seattle on Sept. 4.
"Gabby has been doing everything on the floor for us," Quinn said. "But what our team has is championship-level experience with all of our players. We'll rely on that."
The Storm still have a lot of depth in terms of who can fill in for Williams, including guards Briann January and Epiphanny Prince, and forward Stephanie Talbot. But Williams' ability to guard the perimeter and slow down penetration is something the Storm will miss, especially considering how well the Las Vegas guards have been playing.
Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum both averaged 22.0 points in the first-round series for the Aces, and Jackie Young averaged 15.5. All shot very well from the field in their sweep of Phoenix, but Gray particularly was on fire: a combined 75.0% overall and 76.9% from behind the arc in the two games.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas is still without starting forward Dearica Hamby, who also missed the first-round series, with a bone contusion in her right knee. Everyone else is ready to go for the Aces.
Gray said that the Aces will need to raise their level in facing the Storm, against whom they went 3-1 in the regular season. The teams' most recent meeting was here at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, where the Aces won the their regular-season finale 109-100 on Aug. 14.
"The game that we did lose to them, we turned over the ball a lot," Gray said of the 17 giveaways in Las Vegas' 88-78 loss at Seattle on June 29. "They're a good team, they have dynamic scorers. And they rebound the heck out of the ball against us.
"Gabby picks up the ball, and her length disrupts a lot of things defensively. Offensively, she is always cutting; she does her job to the fullest. So we'll see who they plug in there."