The Seattle Storm are heading back to the 2020 WNBA Finals!
Seattle completed the semifinals sweep over the Minnesota Lynx Sunday with a 92-71 victory in Game 3 behind a stellar performance from forward Breanna Stewart.
Stewart and the Storm were locked in from the jump.
In Sunday’s closeout game, the Storm were all business.
More specifically, the Storm’s superstars were really dialed in.
Heading into Game 3, there had been plenty of chatter that Seattle was winning despite its best players not scoring at will like they normally do.
Game 3 was a different story, but with the same results.
Storm stars veteran point guard Sue Bird and former MVP forward Breanna Stewart had it going early.
Stewart had six of Seattle’s first 13 points.
The duo also showed off their strong connection early and often.
Stewart stepped up on the defensive end as well and was able to find her PG in transition too.
Seattle took a quick 22-8 lead thanks to their stars and a 15-0 run.
Prior to their semifinals series with Minnesota, Stewart (foot) and Bird (knee) sat out for almost two weeks with nagging injuries.
But the two looked healthy and dialed in on Sunday. Bird and Stewart led their team in Game 3 as Seattle now reaches the WNBA Finals for the second time in three years.
Not to mention, Stewart is playing in her first season back following a torn Achilles injury.
The Storm ended the first quarter on 17-4 run to take a 24-12 lead.
After the first 10 minutes of action, Bird and Stewart combined for 16 points and 7 assists.
Between the Storm’s disruptive defense and their hot shooting from within the three-point line, Seattle was rolling.
The Storm took a 46-31 lead at halftime behind Stewart’s 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Following the win, Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg discussed the value of Stewart now that she's had a few games to help her find her rhythm again.
Bird gave plenty of credit to Stewart too when referencing Seattle’s success and not just in Sunday’s Game 3.
“Stewie is the best player on our team,” Bird said. “In my opinion, the best player in the league. And when she plays like she did today, which was composed, taking the shots that she wanted, not forcing anything… When we have that Stewie on the floor, it allows all of us to relax.”
Even though the Storm were able to come out and just play their game Sunday, Bird also wanted to make sure everyone knew that Lynx are a very good team.
Bird had seven first-half assists to go along with her three made threes.
Coach Kloppenburg praised his PG's composure after the game..
“You could tell before the game – just her focus was laser sharp,” Kloppenburg on Bird’s Game 3 performance. "She was really locked in… Her ball handling was superb. – Nine assists and one turnover.”
Minnesota did make a few halftime adjustments to make it a game again in the third quarter. The Lynx were on the attack and worked to slow down the Storm early in the third.
Another big blow for Seattle in the second half was that their go-to scorer and guard Jewell Loyd did not start the third quarter. She was dealing with back pain and had her back worked on by trainers in the locker room. Loyd returned to the game mid-way through the third quarter.
In just 23 minutes played, she finished with seven points playing through pain.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Seattle held a 13-point lead after Stewart continued to put the Storm on her back. She shot 65.0 percent from the field for 28 points through the first three quarters.
Seattle’s second unit extended the lead to start the fourth.
And then Stewart and the starters finished it.
Stewart finished with a playoff career high, 31 points.
She was feeling it.
And she was “grateful to be here” after being out for a year rehabbing her right Achilles.
“I’m excited for what we’ve done and what we still have to do in the future,” Stewart said postgame.
The 2018 MVP winner not only finished with 31 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 2-for-4 from deep, she also notched six rebounds and seven assists in the win.
Coach Kloppenburg called a timeout with 2:14 to go in the game in order to pull his starters with the Storm’s commanding 20-point lead.
Now the Storm will await the winner of the other semifinal series between the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun, who will play their decisive Game 5 Tuesday night.
The 2020 WNBA Finals will tip-off Friday night.