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Previewing Mystics vs. Storm WNBA Final Game 1

Previewing Mystics vs. Storm WNBA Final Game 1

Kristi Toliver speaks from experience.

The guard is the only member of the Washington Mystics to have won a WNBA title, having done so with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

So the Mystics, who are making their first trip to the WNBA Finals, might want to heed her advice as they head into Game 1 of the best-of-five series on Friday night in Seattle.

"Don't make the moment bigger than what it is," Toliver told The Washington Post. "Enjoy each moment but be confident in yourself and be confident in who we are as a team. I think belief is such a huge thing, especially going into a Finals situation. You have to trust and believe that you're capable of winning it, and I think that we are."

The Mystics and Storm each gutted out Game 5 victories in the semifinals.

Washington defeated Atlanta 86-81 with star Elena Delle Donne wearing a large brace on her left knee after suffering a bone bruise late in Game 2 and missing Game 3. Those were the only two games the Mystics lost in the series.

Rookie Ariel Atkins scored 20 points, Toliver added 19, Tianna Hawkins came off the bench to score 17 and Delle Donne had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the clincher.

Seattle outlasted Phoenix 94-84, as point guard Sue Bird scored 14 points of her season-high 22 points in the final six minutes of the finale. Bird was playing with a face mask because of a broken nose suffered late in the first half of Game 4 after running into an inadvertent elbow from teammate Breanna Stewart, the league's MVP this season.

Stewart scored 28 points, Alysha Clark added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and reserve Sami Whitcomb scored 11 for Seattle.

It will be the Storm's third trip to the finals, after having won titles in 2004 and 2010. Bird was a member of both of those teams.

"It means a lot," Bird, the league's oldest player at 37, told The Seattle Times. "Your first time around, you kind of feel like ... yeah, this is great. I'm 23, I'm probably going to be here all the time. This is great, I'm going to be here every year. And then I didn't get back for six years.

"And then six years later, I think OK, we need to capitalize on this situation and we did. Here we are eight years later and I didn't think I'd ever be back, to be honest. ... We started a rebuild and there was no telling what. But the Finals? That was very far from my imagination. To be here now is probably sweeter than the other two."

Seattle took the season series against Washington 2-1, with each team winning on its home court.

"The Finals bring out the best in people," Toliver told The Post. "We have a lot of good people. They have a lot of good people. I think you can tell by the way the regular season went that we match up pretty well with them, and they match up pretty well with us, so I'm excited about it.

"I'm excited to face Sue, Stewie and Jewell (Loyd), friends and great competitors."

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Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

The Wizards sent three representatives to 2020 NBA All-Star Chicago in Rui Hachimura, Moritz Wagner and Davis Bertans. The three young big men will join a long list of D.C. greats that have performed exceptionally well during All-Star Weekend history.

John Wall wins the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

John Wall was the last All-Star to win the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. In 2014, Wall competed in a revamped format of the Dunk Contest with a freestyle round followed by a battle round. Wall was voted Dunker of the Night.

Javale McGee gets snubbed in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

McGee came in second place in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, losing the fan vote to then-Clippers star Blake Griffin. McGee 

Tim Legler wins 1996 Three-Point Contest

Legler is the only Wizard/Bullet to win the Three-Point Shootout. Legler defeated Orlando Magic guard Dennis Scott in the final round of the shootout back in 1996. Legler announced that he almost missed the contest due to the birth of his daughter. After consulting with his wife, she insisted he participate, and they induced labor a week before All-Star Weekend. He dedicated the contest to his newborn and put forward the winning prize money toward her college fund.

Dave Bing named 1976 All-Star Game MVP

Bullets star Dave Bing won MVP in the final All-Star Game of his career. Bing is the only Wizard/Bullet in the franchise's history to be named All-Star Game MVP. He shot 7-of-11 from the floor and scored 16 points.

John Wall named MVP of 2011 Rising Stars Challenge

Wall brought home the hardware during his first Rising Stars Challenge, scoring 12 points and dishing out 22 assists to lead the rookies past a star-studded sophomore squad that included Stephen Curry and James Harden. 

Gilbert Arenas reaches the 2007 Three-Point Contest finals

Arenas competed in the Three-Point Contest in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Wizards. He came in second place in his first go-round, falling to Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, and lost to Heat sharpshooter Jason Kapono in 2007.

Bradley Beal reaches the 2014 Three-Point Contest finals

Beal reached the final round of the shootout in 2014 but narrowly lost to Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, 24-18.

Davis Bertans reaches the 2020 Three-Point Contest finals

The Latvian Laser held his own in his first-ever Three-Point Contest. Bertans swept his money ball rack and ended up making seven in a row to earn himself a spot in the final round where he eventually lost to Kings' sharpshooter Buddy Hield.

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Kemba Walker, Bam Adebayo among players to call Bradley Beal the biggest All-Star snub

Kemba Walker, Bam Adebayo among players to call Bradley Beal the biggest All-Star snub

There have been so many people to come to the defense of Bradley Beal after the Wizards star was snubbed from the All-Star game. His fiancee, agent, teammates and even his alma mater's mascot have in some form expressed their frustration with the NBA coaches not voting Beal in as a reserve. 

Generally speaking, they're all supposed to defend him. But what about those who made it instead of Beal?

In a video produced by Bleacher Report, several NBA All-Stars and All-Star Saturday night participants gave their take on who they thought was the biggest All-Star snub. 

To me, I think Brad," Celtics star Kemba Walker said. "I know it's tough and they select with team records and things like that, but I definitely think Brad Beal should be here. No question."

Beal is averaging 29.1 points heading into the break, which marks the highest scoring average for a non-All-Star ever. World B. Free was the previous record holder from the 1978-19 season. 

"I feel like Bradley Beal is having an incredible year," Heat center Bam Adebayo said. "I feel like he should've been one of those guys who, off the strength of the players, I feel like he shoulda been here. But, I mean, yeah, I feel like it's [because] of his record, but you know, his performance is incredible and I think he's an All-Star."

During voting for the All-Star starters, Beal came in ninth among Eastern Conference guards for the fan vote and fifth in the media vote. But the players had him second, which would have had him starting in the game Sunday night. 

So it's not all that surprising that the players acknowledge Beal as the biggest All-Star snub this year. Maybe the league can get back on track and get him there next season, because there are more than a few players who made it this year who Beal's easily had a better season than. 

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