Midway through the WNBA season we picked the Seattle Storm to win the NBA title. We also picked Breanna Stewart to win the MVP, but a late surge by A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces (the team we picked to meet Seattle in the Finals) pushed the 2018 ROY to the top.
The Aces are building a powerhouse squad of their own and when players who opted out of the season return, they will probably be the favorites to take it all in 2021. For now, however, the Seattle Storm has the depth, the talent, the versatility and two future Hall of Famers that also happen to be Top 10 all-time performers and some of the most accomplished women hoopers in history.
The playoffs are different than the regular season and when you have championship leaders on your team like Sue Bird and Stewy — first and seventh respectively in WNBA jersey sales — they are always going to be hard to beat.
WNBA MVP Snub?
Especially when their best player has a chip on her shoulder for not winning an MVP she felt she earned.
The Storm’s Breanna Stewart finished second in WNBA MVP voting to Aces’ A’ja Wilson. https://t.co/7HiuWNNRva
— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) September 18, 2020
Sue Bird is Seattle’s spokesperson, and when asked, she wasn’t hesitant to suggest that losing the MVP has motivated Stewart, who leads all WNBA players with a 25.6 playoff scoring average.
“I can’t speak for Stewie, but I would assume so,” Bird said. “It has nothing to do with A’ja … she was very deserving of MVP. But I’m sure Stewie felt that she did enough to earn MVP, and got edged by A’ja. Which happens, we’ve seen that. I’ve seen Maya Moore get it over Diana [Taurasi], I’ve seen Lauren Jackson get it over people. It’s a tough league to win MVP.
“So I think it does give you a little extra motivation, I would assume. Is that why she played the way she did? I don’t know. I think more than anything, she wants to win a ring.”
One More Win…Championship Tings’
Up 2-0 in these WNBA Wubble Finals, Seattle is hunting for its second title in three years. It’s clear that this is their moment.
“I mean, we’re doing pretty much everything that we can,” said WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who beat out Breanna Stewart for the honor this season.” Maybe not let her get as many open looks as she wants, but I think we’re just doing — Stewie is a great player. She’s going to find ways to score. That’s the whole point of being one of the greatest to play it, and at the end of the day we’re doing what we can do.”
Stewart had 37 points and 15 rebounds to become the first player in WNBA Finals history with a 35-point, 15-rebound combination in a game. Lisa Leslie is the only other player to do it in the 2001 Western Conference finals against Sacramento.
Stewart went bonkers hitting 15-of-24 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3-point range. She was 11-of-18 on contested field goals. Her 15 made field goals are the most in a Finals game and tied for the most in WNBA playoff history. She made no bones about who the best player on the floor was.
Sue Bird wasn’t just a fly on the wall. The 39-year-old Point GOD dished a career-high and WNBA playoff record 16 assists to lead second-seed Seattle to a 93-80 win.
Stewart scored 22 points to lead five Storm players in double figures in a 104-91 victory over the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday in Game 2 of the best-of-five series.
Overcoming Injuries, Price Of A Champion
Seattle is searching for the franchise’s fourth WNBA title with Sue Bird running the show. They won it in 2018 when Wilson was just breaking into the league and Las Vegas was in its first year in the WNBA.
In 2019, Stewart missed the entire season after tearing her Achilles while playing for Russian club Dynamo Kursk in the 2019 EuroLeague Women final. She underwent surgery in Los Angeles later that week and the Storm wasn’t the same squad without her. As bad luck would have it, Bird was injured that season as well.
Both superstars returned for WNBA Bubble action successfully in 2020. Stewart finished fourth in the WNBA in scoring at 19.7 ppg. As the season progressed, so did her game. Bird was the same steady hand that she’s been for the past two decades.
Despite winning, this season has been a physical challenge for Bird and Stewie who have battled through minor injuries, causing Bird to miss both previous games against the Aces this season, while Stewart missed one of the matchups.
The struggles, the injuries, the up and coming Aces…meant nothing once the playoffs hit.
Once Seattle closes out the Aces, the team will reflect on what has been a very emotional season, one oozing with redeeming features.
With Stewart getting off, it makes Bird’s facilitating abilities easier. She’s a basketball genius who’s won three WNBA championships with the Storm (2004, 2010, 2018), four Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), two NCAA Championships with UConn (2000, 2002), and four FIBA World Cups (2002, 2010, 2014, 2018). She is one of only 11 women to attain all four accolades.
WNBA’s Best 1-2 Punch
When Stewie and Bird have been healthy and in sync, a ring is what the result usually is.
In the Game 2 postgame presser, Stewart was asked a question about the efficiency and success of her and Bird as a tandem.
“Could you maybe tell me what you’re seeing, you and Sue were among the best players as a duo in net rating in the WNBA in 2018. This year you’re at 27.2 in the regular season, the highest number anyone’s put up in the last ten years as a duo, and in the playoffs, you’re 22.8 coming into today.
How and why are you guys somehow better than you were even the year you last won the Championship?”
Stewart answered: “I’m not sure. I think that we’re continuing to take what the defense gives us, I think especially in pick-and-roll situations like that, you know, either I’m going to have a shot or she’s going to have a shot or we’re making a play for someone else. I don’t know, it’s great to be on the court with her.”
With Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart in the lead, the Storm has the championship pedigree to peak when it matters most. Up 2-0 in the Finals, this is Seattle's time, writes columnist @StoneLarry. https://t.co/kRHTzhjMpW
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) October 5, 2020
It’s been great watching Bird, the old sagacious ice pick, continue to chip away at opponents, while Stewie the young money sniper continues to carve her legacy as an ambassador for the league that’s moving swiftly, fiercely and uncompromisingly into the future.