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.