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The Seattle Storm defeated the Washington Mystics 98-82 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, to complete a series sweep and capture their third WNBA title Wednesday night.
League MVP Breanna Stewart led the way with 30 points (11-of-22 shooting) and eight rebounds as she added Finals MVP honors to her stacked trophy case, while frontcourt running mate Natasha Howard poured in a playoff career-high 29 points to send the Mystics home empty-handed.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
The Storm complete the #WNBAFinals sweep and win their 3rd title! 🏆 https://t.co/F5hpQ60ooj
Sue Bird Officially Passes Torch to Breanna Stewart After Dominant Showing
Game 3 was a seminal moment for the Storm.
Not only did Stewart round out one of the most impressive individual seasons in recent memory, but Sue Bird (10 points, 10 assists) also padded her Hall of Fame-caliber resume with a third title after leading the Storm to championships in 2004 and 2010.
At 37 years old, though, Bird is no longer the engine that drives Seattle. Instead, that honor belongs to Stewart—the 24-year-old dynamo who appears poised to anchor Seattle’s offense for another decade-plus.
Breanna Stewart has been named 2018 WNBA Finals MVP. Add it to her resume: 2018 WNBA MVP WNBA Rookie of the Year 2 WNBA All-Star Games 4 NCAA Championships 4 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Awards https://t.co/lGpagd0rHs
And therein lies the beauty of Wednesday’s result.
While Bird is inching toward the finish line of her legendary career, Stewart is just getting started. And if the 2018 season was any indication, Stewart is on track to cement herself as a Storm lifer the way Bird has since she arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2002.
Mystics Must Find Answers Beyond Elena Delle Donne Next Season
Following Game 2, Elena Delle Donne stressed a need to diversify her scoring portfolio.
“I’m more than just a back-to-the-basket type of player. Playing in space opens up my teammates, also opens myself up,” she said, according to ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton. “We’ve got to find a way to not become one-dimensional and just try to force it in. When that’s not working, we’ve got to spread the floor and attack. Fouls are called when you’re on the move, when you’re attacking, but back to the basket, it’s a lot easier for them to not call fouls.”
However, the Mystics didn’t have much success adhering to that strategy Wednesday.
The Storm contested seemingly every shot Delle Donne took, and she drew a crowd of defenders any time she received a pass—especially if it came below the free-throw line—to disrupt her rhythm and prevent the offense from flowing more easily through her teammates.
While Delle Donne dropped 23 hard-earned points, the Mystics shot 34.8 percent from three one game after they missed all 16 of their long-range attempts as the Storm rotated seamlessly along the perimeter to limit the damage inflicted by Delle Donne’s supporting cast.
In fact, Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver (22 points) and Ariel Atkins (nine points) combined to make five of Washington’s triples while all other Mystics players mustered three.
As those figures indicate, Washington has to regroup this offseason, learn from the problems that plagued the offense the last three games and formulate ways to keep the offense humming even when Delle Donne can’t get buckets at will.
Otherwise, hoisting the hardware the Storm captured Wednesday night could become something of a pipe dream.
Storm’s Depth Proves They’re a Dynasty in the Making
Stewart was the headliner, and for good reason.
But without Howard and Alysha Clark, the Storm wouldn’t have ascended to the WNBA throne.
Howard, a double-double machine, cranked out her finest effort of the postseason and proved to reside on another plane of efficiency with a title in sight as she shot 11-of-14 from the floor.
As if that wasn’t enough, Howard was relentless on the glass and pulled down 14 boards, including six on the offensive glass, to generate a handful of extra possessions.
Kevin Pelton @kpeltonWBB
Natasha Howard has had some really good ones, but this is probably her best game in a Storm uniform.
Speaking of tone-setting efforts, Clark stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists as she came up with timely bucket after timely bucket whenever the Storm started to sputter.
With those two plugged in alongside Stewart, not to mention 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jewell Loyd, it’s clear the Storm have a Big Three that can serve as the fulcrum of a potential dynasty.
Now all eyes will turn toward their quest for a repeat.
A championship parade in Seattle.