Sue Bird was particularly fired up by her standards at a few key moments during her Seattle Storm’s 97-84 series-clinching win over the Washington Mystics on Sunday afternoon at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
After she stole a Natasha Cloud pass intended for Elena Delle Donne and sprinted down the court for a fast break layup that Delle Donne was unable to contest, the Seattle lead increased to 92-79 with 2:02 to go and Bird was jumping up and down on her way back up the court, saying “Let’s go!” to the Storm fans.
The Mystics would rudely cut it to eight with 1:32 to go, negating what had seemed to be the exclamation mark of the series for the retiring Bird. But Sue responded right back with the final score of the game: A three with 40.9 seconds remaining. That gave her a season-high 18 points to go along with her season-high 10 assists. When she started Game 1 four-of-five from the field and 2-of-3 from three, scoring all 10 of her points in the first 15 minutes and 27 seconds of the contest, it seemed like this could be a fun farewell tour for her and Storm fans. But 18 points, 10 assists and 4-of-6 shooting from the beyond the arc in Game 2 took it to a whole other level, that of vintage Sue Bird.
Sue Bird's 10th assist to go along with 15 points makes her the first WNBA player to record a double-double in her 40s. Three NBA players have done it, per @stathead: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the oldest at 42), Karl Malone and John Stockton: https://t.co/cb6h7ueqbh— Kevin Pelton (@kpeltonWBB) August 21, 2022
The No. 4 seed Storm took the first-round series 2-0 and now advance to play the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semifinals.
“I only have so many games left,” Bird said. “What today's win did was obviously push us into the semifinal — it also guaranteed us more home games. So that was definitely in the back of my mind as I entered today. It wasn't some overwhelming motivator — just kind of a thought that I had as I entered. Simultaneously, none of us wanted to travel. I mean, I said that on the court — it’s a big part of it. Now we have all this rest, we have all this time to prepare, knowing that Vegas had already advanced so they were definitely going to get that rest and that time. Being able to stay home and not having to travel cross-country is huge.”
Storm head coach Noelle Quinn was equally relieved that Bird will be getting at least one more home game: Game 3 of the semifinal series at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 4 (ABC).
“I love it for the game of basketball, I love it for the Seattle fans, I love it for our organization,” Quinn said. “I don’t want it to end.”
After being held to just four points in the first half, Breanna Stewart nearly had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and a career playoff-high eight assists. Jewell Loyd added 19 points.
“Those three have been through the fire with one another,” Quinn said. “And so I know that in these moments there’s a level that they get to, and they feed off one another and there’s comfort with one another to know where they need the ball when they need the ball. And I think each of them impacted the game in their own way. But that’s just who they are — they've been our big three since whenever, they will continue to be now in the present and however long we continue.”
It was an ideal performance from that trio and the Storm also got key contributions from its other two starters in Tina Charles (12 points, five boards) and Gabby Williams (14 points). The 97 points as a team was a welcome sight against the best defense in the league. It was tied for their fourth-highest scoring output of the season. The Storm shot 55.6 percent from the field, 12-of-23 from distance and 15-of-17 at the charity stripe.
Seattle shot 75% in the first quarter (9-12). That its best shooting percentage in any quarter of a playoff game in franchise history.#TakeCover— Seattle Storm PR (@SeattleStormPR) August 21, 2022
Williams left the game in the third quarter with a concussion and her availability for the semifinals is uncertain. So that is some sobering news for the Storm, but they are advancing past a formidable first-round opponent who had championship aspirations and that is worth celebrating.