FAIRFAX, Va. — The main storyline surrounding the Seattle Storm before the 2018 WNBA season, and also a few seasons prior to the one, was whether the end of the previous season for point guard Sue Bird would lead to her retirement. As tonight’s WNBA season came to a close in the shadows of the nation’s capital, Bird’s season ended with another distinction: champion.
Seattle ended a year where it was undoubtedly the best team in the league with a sweep in the championship round, as Bird had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists while Finals MVP Breanna Stewart scored 30 points as the Storm defeated the Washington Mystics 98-82 at EagleBank Arena in the home of George Mason University to win its third WNBA championship.
Bird won championships with the Storm in 2004 and 2010 as one half of the team’s dynamic duo with Australian forward Lauren Jackson, but the team had fallen on harder times as the team put up losing seasons in six of the seven seasons, including six straight going into this season. Stewart, who was the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft, and Bird’s backcourt mate, 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jewell Loyd, ended up helping to form the core of the team that would being the Storm back to league relevance.
After the team lost its first regular-season game to Phoenix, the Storm won their next five games on their way to the league’s best record. In a do-or-die Game 5 win in the conference semifinals against Phoenix, one where Bird played through a broken nose and scored 14 fourth-quarter points, the “Big Three” were relentless against the Mystics, leading to Bird winning at least one more championship before she decides to ride into the basketball sunset, whenever that will be.
“Each [championship] is special in its own way, but this one is probably going to have a different meaning for me,” Bird said. “There is probably no comparison to be honest. I didn’t know if I’d be playing at this point. Our team went through a rebuild and, yes, I decided to stay. Once we got Stewie and Jewell, we knew we’d get to the other side, but how do you know you’re going to get to the other side this fast?”
Having Stewart, the 2018 WNBA Most Valuable Player, certainly expedited Seattle’s ascent, and in tonight’s game, Stewie scored 17 points in the first half as the Storm opened up a 17-point halftime lead.
“Stewie was just amazing,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “She truly was the MVP of this league. She truly was the MVP of these Finals. God blessed me with an opportunity to coach her and I will be forever grateful.”
Stewart’s frontcourt mates also stepped up, with center Natasha Howard pouring in a career-high 29 points to go along with 14 rebounds, while forward Alysha Clark filled the stat sheet with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Despite its struggles all night shooting the ball, the Mystics were able to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, as a Tierra Ruffin-Pratt three-pointer with 6:49 remaining in the fourth cut Seattle’s lead to five at 72-67.
The Storm, however, immediately went on an 8-0 run, capped off by a Sami Whitcomb three-pointer. Washington was not able to cut Seattle’s lead into single digits for the rest of the game.
“Obviously, this finals didn’t go the way we wanted it,” said Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne, who led the team with 23 points. “The great thing is we can still improve. We don’t feel like we peaked and this is it for us.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by DC-Area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 11 pictures in total.