The Las Vegas Aces ended the career of Sue Bird Tuesday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
Breanna Stewart tied the single-game playoff record for points, but her Seattle Storm fell 97-92 in the deciding Game 4 of a semifinal series.
Breanna Stewart has tied Angel McCoughtry’s WNBA playoff record of 42 points in a game set on September 7, 2010.#TakeCover— Seattle Storm PR (@SeattleStormPR) September 7, 2022
For Vegas, Chelsea Gray (31 points, six rebounds, 10 assists) became the first player in WNBA history with with a 30-point/10-assist double-double in a playoff game and went on a 5-0 individual run that put the Aces up 92-87 with 30 seconds left. Some interesting things happened over the final 30 seconds, but that essentially won the game.
It was the second straight game that Gray won for her team, as she also went on a 5-0 run in Game 3 to help Vegas pull away in an overtime classic that ESPN ranked as the second-greatest playoff game of all-time. Gray was 13-of-22 from the field (59.1 percent) and 4-of-8 from three on Tuesday. She is shooting 62.6 percent from the field in the 2022 playoffs, which is incredible for a guard, and 59.5 percent from distance.
Stewart missed one of two free throws at 28.7 seconds remaining, failing to cut it to a one-possession game. If she had, Seattle would have had the option of playing straight-up defense and potentially could have gotten the ball back down three with some time left without fouling.
With 17.2 seconds to go and the Storm down 95-90, Jackie Young stepped in front of a Bird pass intended for Jewell Loyd and the ball went off Loyd and out of bounds, which a replay review confirmed. All Vegas had to do was get the ball in, get fouled, make two free throws and it’d be a three-possession game.
But Seattle nearly stole the ensuing inbound and settled for a jump ball between Loyd and A’ja Wilson that was collected by Stewart. Instead of trying to get off the quickest shot possible with Kiah Stokes right in her face, Stewart saw a tempting opportunity to get the ball to Loyd for an open three. But it was a deep three and Wilson closed out well, forcing Loyd to miss off the front rim. Yet the unbelievably thrilling series was not quite out of gas as Stewart raced in for the offensive rebound and a layup that cut it to 95-92 with 6.1 seconds to go.
It was only after two Young free throws that the Storm fizzled out on their final possession, not getting a shot off.
Stewart added seven rebounds and three blocks, while Loyd poured in 29 points. The two of them combined for 71 of the Storm’s 92 (77.2 percent of the scoring). Bird had eight points and eight assists in her final game, while Tina Charles had just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 shooting at the free throw line. Gabby Williams had eight points and six boards; her energy and defense were again crucial.
Wilson played all 40 minutes after playing all 45 minutes of Game 3 and had 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Instead of relying on two players like Seattle, Vegas had four players in double figures. Young (18 points) and Kelsey Plum (15) joined Gray and Wilson. Young was 5-of-6 from the field, 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and 5-of-5 at the stripe.
Stewart scored 26 points in the first half and made her first five threes before finishing 6-of-8 from deep.
Vegas outshot Seattle 56.3 percent to 44.3 percent from the field.
More to come on Bird’s farewell.