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Sue Bird’s legendary performance sends the Seattle Storm back to the WNBA Finals

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After trailing the entire game, the Storm outscored the Mercury by 14 in the 4th quarter to advance to their 3rd WNBA Finals.

Not all heroes wear capes, but this one definitely wears a mask!
Neil Enns/Storm Photography

With 5:51 left in the Winner-Take-All Game 5, Seattle trailed the Phoenix Mercury by four 73-69. Sue Bird received a pass from Sami Whitcomb and knocked down a three-point shot. What followed was one of the most clutch basketball performances the city of Seattle has ever seen. After Seattle and Phoenix exchanged baskets, Bird came back and drove near the foul line, pump-faked Yvonne Turner who went past her and knocked down another shot to give Seattle a 76-75 lead with 4:40 left to play. The next Seattle possession Breanna Stewart went for a short hook over the long-stretched arms of 6’9” Brittney Griner and left it short. Natasha Howard was able to get inside and collect the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Bird who drained another three-pointer to put Seattle up 79-76 with 4:00 left in the game.

On the defensive end, Howard deflected the ball away from Griner and Whitcomb came up with the steal that led to a Breanna Stewart hook over DeWanna Bonner to put Seattle up 81-76. The Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, normally clutch in these moments, missed on her three-pointer that would have cut Seattle’s lead to two. The following possession, Bird attempted to set up the offense and was double-teamed and knocked to the floor. The refs then called jump ball and Bird just lost it. She was screaming at the referees and ripped off her mask (which she had to wear after breaking her nose in Game 4). Fortunately, for the Storm, she was not given a Technical Foul. Despite Bonner winning the tip, Alysha Clark was able to hustle to the ball and secured the possession for Seattle. Two passes later the ball ended up in Sue Bird’s hands about four feet beyond the three-point arc and she hoisted another one up and drained it to put Seattle up 84-76 with 2:50 remaining in the game.

Play by play man Ryan Ruocco yelled out “She is unconscious right now!”

With just 53 seconds to play and Seattle holding an 86-79 advantage, Sue Bird got the inbound pass and ran a few seconds off the clock, she then got a screen from Breanna Stewart and pulled up and knocked down her fourth three-pointer in the final six minutes of the game with the season and a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line. After a few more trips to the foul line for Seattle and a few meaningless layups by Phoenix, that was all she wrote as Seattle won 94-84.

Per the Associated Press, Diana Taurasi praised her friend and long time rival.

‘’Probably one of the best little stints of basketball I’ve seen her play. But that’s what she can do,’’ Taurasi said. ‘’She can probably do that more often. But she’s the consummate point guard. She always wants to get everyone else involved. That’s routine Sue to me. But it was incredible really; just an incredible performance by her.’’

When so much is on the line and a player steps up the way Bird did in the 4th quarter, that is how legends are born. When you’re already a legend, it just adds to the incredible legacy that Sue Bird has built over her 16 seasons with the Seattle Storm. Some are now comparing Bird’s incredible 14 point 4th quarter performance with her broken nose and mask to the well-known Michael Jordan flu game back in 1997 Game 5 of the NBA Finals, where Jordan put up 38 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a pivotal Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Other NBA players and even Seahawks legend Left Tackle Walter Jones noticed as they took to Twitter to share their excitement over Bird’s clutch performance.

While Bird put the finishing touches on Seattle’s victory, it was league MVP Breanna Stewart who kept the Storm in the game early. Seattle trailed big early as Phoenix got out to a 13-3 lead in the first quarter. Seattle would trail by four points (26-22) at the end of the first quarter after a Jordin Canada turnover led to an easy two by DeWanna Bonner to end the first period. Seattle kept it close but would trail by five points at halftime 46-41. Seattle would trail by as many as 11 points in the 2nd half. But it was Breanna Stewart who kept Seattle within striking distance throughout. Stewie finished the game with a game-high 28 points. Stewart put her full offensive arsenal on display throughout the game. She was attacking the basket, hitting mid-range shots, performing low post moves and hook shots and a three-pointer for good measure. She truly had a game worthy of the Most Valuable Player.

Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart weren’t the only heroes of the night. Sami Whitcomb came off the bench and immediately scored 5 points in two minutes. Whitcomb brought quick defensive energy and instant offense off the bench. She played so well, she ended up playing the entire 4th quarter over All-Star guard Jewell Loyd, who continued to struggle against Briann January. Whitcomb finished the game with 11 points, four assists, and three rebounds. In total, Seattle’s bench outscored Phoenix’s 18-2 and was a huge factor in this series.

Alysha Clark also had a tremendous game. Most notably was her exceptional rebounding in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter where she was able to secure several late-game possessions for the Storm. After initially struggling with her shot, Clark finished the game with a double-double 13 points and 13 rebounds. She also held the league’s most prolific scorer to just 17 points in the winner-take-all game. Clark also hit some clutch baskets, including a three-pointer to tie the game at 57-57 late in the 3rd quarter. And an easy layup and some last second free throws to help seal the game in the final two minutes.

And while the Phoenix Mercury were better than the Storm through the first 34 minutes of this game, the Seattle Storm came through when it mattered the most. Shockingly, through the first four games of the series that Storm had been abysmal in the 4th quarter. Seattle averaged just 11 points in the 4th quarter in the Semi-Finals until Game 5. But with a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line, the Storm exploded for 35 points and set a new franchise record for most points in a quarter in a playoff game. They outscored the Mercury 35-21 and turned a four point deficit into a 10 point win.

Diana Taurasi had never lost a winner-take-all elimination game before. She was 13-0 heading into the Game 5 elimination game against Seattle on Tuesday night. But in the final minutes of the game, Sue Bird was every bit the stone cold killer Diana Taurasi often is in these moments. Bird left no doubt that it was her moment and her year.