BY SPNW Staff 08:32PM 09/12/2018

Bird, Stewart lead Storm to a third WNBA title

30 points from Breanna Stewart and 29 from Natasha Howard helped the Storm to a 98-82 win and a sweep of the Washington Mystics to capture Seattle’s third WNBA title.

Sue Bird is bringing back a third WNBA title trophy to Seattle. / Seattle Storm

After a serious scare from Phoenix in the semifinals, the Seattle Storm made the shortest possible work of the Washington Mystics — a three-game sweep — and are now three-time WNBA champs. The 98-82 triumph Wednesday on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, made it trophy No. 3 for Seattle, the first since 2010.

As always with the Storm, Sue Bird was at the epicenter, driving, dishing and dazzling.

At 37, the oldest to play on a WNBA champion played through a mask protecting her broken nose — the fifth of her career — to set up with 10 assists the Storm’s remarkable front line of Breanna Stewart (30 points),  Natasha Howard (29) and Alysha Clark (15). The trio stepped outside to hit nine of 12 three-pointers to help the visitors sprint out to 47-30 lead at intermission, which grew to a 19-point second-half lead.

But the Storm fell into a lull that has happened several times in the playoffs, and the Mystics closed to 72-67 late in the third quarter.

Stewart, who followed up her regular-season MVP award with the same trophy in the Finals, restored order with a couple of threes. Howard added 14 rebounds to her career high in points.

Bird’s third WNBA trophy — the first was in 2004 — will have her trophy case bursting. She won two NCAA titles at Connecticut, four Olympic gold medals, three world championship golds and four EuroLeague championships. But another Finals trip seemed beyond the grasp for a team that had been knocked out of the finals in the first round the past two seasons.

“I didn’t think I’d be back,” she said. “But the young players trusted their point guard.”

The Storm was dominant throughout the regular season, earning the No. 1 seed to avoid the dangerous first two knockout rounds of the playoffs. But in the semis, the Mercury won its two games at home to force a decisive fifth game in Seattle, before succumbing to the Storm’s record-setting outside shooters under first-year coach Dan Hughes.

Stewart averaged 25.6 points in the series, which included the opening two wins at KeyArena.

“Seattle deserves to have this trophy back,” she said. “I can’t wait to bring it home.”

The matchup evoked echoes of the NBA Finals matchup 40 years ago. The Washington Bullets (later Wizards) took the 1978 title with a 4-2 series win over the SuperSonics. A year later, the same matchup produced a Sonics 4-1 series triumph for Seattle’s first modern major pro sports championship.


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YourThoughts

  • Chris Alexander

    Bird’s performance cemented her already-assured place in the Hall of Fame and, on a more personal note, as my favorite athlete of all time. Breanna Stewart rightly won the MVP awards (both regular season and Finals) but the Storm is watching on TV without Bird guiding them. She gives the team such an advantage. I won’t be surprised if she decides to retire on top but I sincerely hope she comes back for at least one more season. Would love to see the team repeat next year.

    This year though … and this game in particular. Solid performance from Bird. MVP performance from Stewart. Natasha Howard … at one point the announcers said she averaged under 6 minutes a game in last year’s playoffs (with her old team) …. how? why? what??? Big mistake! She was lights out, scored a career high in points, and played lock-down defense to boot. Alysha Clark might be new favorite Storm player when Bird retires (15 points, 9 rebounds, 60% from 3-point territory, and solid, SOLID defense. Sami Whitcomb might give her a run for the money though; there was one point in today’s game where she had a stop, a steal, and a 3 within about a 15-second span. What team gets that from a backup? Crazy! And she’s a great story to boot (UW star, Australian star, finally found a WNBA team to call home). And don’t even get me started about Jewell Lloyd. She had a bad night (6 points on 2-11 shooting) but played good D and helped the team win by 16 points. Lord knows what they would have won by if she had been hitting her shot. She’s streaky but she’s always fun to watch.

    All in all, a great season and a solid core to try to defend the title next year. Time to celebrate! Yay Storm !!!

    • art thiel

      You know well your Storm. Enjoy the parade.

  • ll9956

    Congratulations to the ladies for an outstanding performance in the championship series to bring the trophy to the Pacific Northwest for the third time. This was a fitting crown to a superb season!

    • art thiel

      Stewart and Bird, as half-generation apart, made a remarkable tandem.

  • jafabian

    None of the major sports franchises in Seattle can claim a legacy like what the Storm have. Looking forward to seeing them represented at the next Sports Star of the Year awards night.

    The gauntlet has been thrown! Let’s see how the Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners and even the Huskies react.

  • DonMac

    Thank God for the Storm!