The Storm are the model sports franchise in Seattle. On Wednesday night, they defeated the Washington Mystics 98-82 on the road to sweep the Mystics three games to none in the Best of Five Championship series. This is the third WNBA Championship the Storm have won with 2004 and 2010 being the other seasons. The Storm along with the now-defunct Houston Comets are the only WNBA franchises in league history to be undefeated in WNBA Finals’ appearances (Comets went 4-0 between 1997-2000).
After a quick 4-0 start for the Mystics, the Storm went on an 18-6 run to start the first quarter. This would not be the only 18-6 run the Storm would have in this championship-clinching Game 3, but more on that later. Seattle was hot from the get-go, but more importantly, they were rebounding extremely well. Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark were dominant on the glass. The first period ended with the Storm leading 20-16.
The second quarter was really the difference in this game and where Seattle was able to run away with things a bit outscoring Washington 27-14. Seattle’s defensive rotations were excellent and Washington went cold. Both Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard were on fire in the first half. They each had 17 points to lead Seattle. The frontcourt of Stewart, Howard, and Alysha Clark combined for 8-9 from three-point range in the 1st half. The Storm finished on a 10-3 run to end the half. Technically, 11-3 as Washington Coach Mike Thibault got T’d up leaving the court as half-time began. Seattle would start the third quarter up 47-30.
There was no let down in the 2nd half for the Storm in this game like there was in Game 4 of the Semi-Finals against Phoenix. Seattle and Washington played very evenly through the third and fourth quarters with Washington outscoring Seattle 23-22 and both teams scoring 29 points in the 4th quarter.
However, the 4th quarter started with a bit of concern for Storm fans. The Mystics opened up on a 9-1 run in the first two minutes of the final frame. Elena Delle Donne went into one of her beast modes scoring six quick points for the Mystics. Washington would cut Seattle’s lead to just five points at 72-67 with 6:47 left in the game after a three-pointer by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. But then Seattle would put the game out of reach with their second 18-6 run of the ball game.
Sami Whitcomb once again played a huge role off the bench in the 4th quarter, similar to her performance in Game 5 against Phoenix. Whitcomb hit two three-pointers and also got a couple steals. Her final three put Seattle up 17 points (90-73) with 2:47 left to play.
Seattle would lead by as many as 19 points in the final seconds of the game. Natasha Cloud knocked down a meaningless three in the final five seconds of the game for a final score of 98-82.
The Washington Mystics were led in Game 3 by their star players Elena Delle Donne 23 points and five rebound and Kristi Toliver with 22 points and five assists. No other Mystics player scored in double figures and that defense was key to Seattle’s victory.
This was a complete team win led by Seattle’s frontcourt. Breanna Stewart had 30 points and eight rebounds. Natasha Howard had a career night with 29 point and 14 rebounds. Alysha Clark added 15 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. The Storm out-rebounded the Mystics 39-28, including 13 offensive rebounds. Seattle held a 26-18 edge in assists. Seattle also shot the three-ball extremely well, connecting on 13-26 shots from down town (50%) compared to the Mystics 8-23 (35%).
Sue Bird now adds to her legacy, winning her 3rd championship in Seattle in her 16th season. Bird is the only remaining member from the 2004 and 2010 championship teams. This is a moment she honestly didn’t think would come to fruition.
The WNBA’s All-Time leader in assists finished the game with a double-double 10 points and 10 assists. Bird said after the game.
“Four years ago, I didn’t know I’d still be playing right now. It’s just incredible to be standing here as WNBA Champions. This league is so difficult to play in, it’s so difficult to win. The fact that we just did this, it’s currently unbeatable at the top of my list.”
Alysha Clark raved about the 16-year veteran after the game.
“Build the statue already. She’s amazing, an amazing leader, an amazing person, an amazing friend, she deserves this! From the very beginning she’s led us and has been so calm, so poised throughout the entire season. She’s been an amazing leader and I’m super happy we were able to get one for her.”
While Bird was the reason the Storm advanced to the WNBA Finals after her historical performance in the Game 5 elimination game against the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Semi-Finals, where she scored 14 points with four three-pointers in the final six minutes of the game to rally the Storm to beat the Mercury 94-84. It was the new face of the franchise, Breanna Stewart whose MVP season translated into a Finals MVP after averaging over 25.6 PPG and more than 6 rebounds throughout the series.
Stewart is an exceptional talent and at the age of 24 already has an extremely impressive resume. She was part of the first group of players to win four straight NCAA Championships at Uconn. She was also the MOP (Most Outstanding Player) for all four years of her dominance in college. In 2016, she became the first overall selection in the WNBA Draft. She then won Rookie of the Year that season and an Olympic Gold Medal. The next two seasons, she was named to the WNBA All-Star teams. This season, she won the MVP award, the first Storm player to do so since Lauren Jackson in 2010. She was also named 1st team all WNBA for the 2018 season. And now she can add WNBA Champion and Finals MVP to that list.
During the Championship celebration, Coach Dan Hughes, who won his first WNBA title Wednesday night after nearly two decades in the league, praised his team.
“Most of all I’m happy for these players. Not very often in life do you get around a group this special. And to see them realize their dreams and watch them work for it every day, it’s one of the most pleasing things you can imagine,” he told ESPN reporter Holly Rowe.
Seattle you have a champion once again! Now basketball fans, Storm Crazies, we will see you Sunday at KeyArena at 1:00pm to celebrate the cities third WNBA Championship and victory parade.