The No. 2 Seattle Storm punched their ticket to the 2020 WNBA Finals with a 92-71 win over the No. 4 Minnesota Lynx on Sunday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The Storm won the championship in 2018. Later that year, superstar Breanna Stewart ruptured her Achilles in a EuroLeague Women championship game and missed all of the 2019 WNBA season. The team made it to the second round of the playoffs last year with Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard leading the way, but Stewart’s return and the return of WNBA legend Sue Bird, who also missed last season following knee surgery, have returned the Storm to dominance and put them in position to win another championship.
In the other semifinals series, the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces finally found some breathing room against the No. 7 Connecticut Sun and came away with a comfortable 84-75 victory to force a Game 5.
Seattle Storm 92, Minnesota Lynx 71 | Storm win series 3-0 | Box Score
After making just a third of her shots through the first two games of the series, Stewart dominated Game 3 with a playoff career-high 31 points on 63.6 percent shooting from the field. She also had seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Bird added 16 points and dished out a game-high nine assists.
Mercedes Russell scored 10 points and hauled in six rebounds for the winners in 18 minutes played. Loyd dealt with back stiffness and played just 23 minutes while Jordin Canada (19:29) and Howard (15:31) also got some rest due to the large margin of victory.
The Storm were comfortably ahead at the end of each quarter and led by 13 entering the fourth. Minnesota needed a big final quarter to steal the game and they did not get one. The Lynx scored 20 points in the final frame, but allowed 28 and never got closer than 12 on a Napheesa Collier 3-pointer with 5:38 remaining.
Collier finished with 22 points and recorded game highs in rebounding and blocking, with 15 and three, respectively. Crystal Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, had her best scoring performance of the semifinals with 16 points and Damiris Dantas chipped in the same. Still, it was not enough for the Lynx to avoid the three-game sweep.
Minnesota lost Game 1 by two points on a buzzer-beating layup by Seattle’s Alysha Clark and Game 2 by a 10-point margin.
The Storm opened Game 3 with a great first quarter that featured a 17-0 run. Stewart had eight points, three assists and two steals in the opening frame and Bird was good for eight points and four assists to help give Seattle a 24-12 lead entering the second.
Las Vegas Aces 84, Connecticut Sun 75 | Series tied 2-2 | Box Score
The Aces avoided elimination thanks to 29 points from Angel McCoughtry, 16 of which came in the third quarter.
The Sun had all the momentum coming into this one and the Aces were trying to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to not make the Finals under the new playoff format. McCoughtry rose to the occasion under that pressure after scoring 31 points combined in the first three games of the series.
McCoughtry and Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby (24 points in the first three games) were the two players the Aces needed to step up the most. Hamby, however, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, announced prior to tipoff, making McCoughtry’s role even more important.
A’ja Wilson, the 2020 WNBA MVP and 2018 Rookie of the Year, deserves a lot of credit for the win as well. She had carried the Aces through the first three games and notched 18 points and 13 rebounds in Game 4.
Danielle Robinson also scored 18 points for Las Vegas after combining for 26 in the first three games. Robinson rounded out her Game 4 stats with five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Aces absolutely dominated in the paint, scoring 46 points to the Sun’s 20, and they surrendered just seven turnovers, which prevented Sun star Alyssa Thomas from getting out in transition.
Thomas’ name was buzzing across the WNBA after she battled back from a shoulder dislocation in Game 2 to score 23 points in Game 3. On Sunday, she was held to 15 points and her teammate, Jasmine Thomas, led Connecticut in scoring with 25. Meanwhile, the Sun’s No. 1 scorer in the regular season, DeWanna Bonner, recorded 10 points and 15 rebounds in defeat.
The Aces led by 11 points entering the fourth and the Sun never got closer than nine in the final frame. Connecticut was up by two points after one quarter and by one point at the break before McCoughtry took over in the third. The Sun had yet to trail the Aces by double digits before the third quarter on Sunday.
The Storm await the winner of Game 5 between the Aces and Sun, which will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
Game 1 of the Finals is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, and will be aired on ESPN2.