Basically everything went right for the Seattle Storm this season. The team easily notched the best record in the WNBA at 26-8 (a full six games better than the #2 seed in the West). Forward Breanna Stewart earned her first WNBA MVP. The team was top-loaded with Stewart and star guards Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, but the roster still felt deep with talented bench contributors that would make other squads jealous. Everything looked headed toward a dominant championship coronation.
Then they ran into the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals.
The Storm let huge leads dwindle in both Game 1 and Game 2 at home, but managed to pull out hard-fought victories. The team got blown off the floor in Game 3 in Phoenix, and squandered a 17-point lead to lose a 2-point heartbreaker in Game 4 (to add injury to insult, Bird broke her nose in the contest). That meant a decisive Game 5 in Seattle on Tuesday night.
Things didn’t look great for the first three quarters of Game 5, with the Storm trailing throughout. Then Bird—rocking a face mask to protect her busted nose—went nuclear. In the final 6 minutes of the game, the ageless legend scored 14 points on 5-6 shooting (4-5 from 3-point land) and willed the Storm back to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Bird’s scoring barrage drew praise from everyone from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to top sports writers to fun joke Twitter accounts:
@S10Bird You’re a MONSTER!!! 💪🏾🙏🏾
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 5, 2018
Ok @S10Bird @seattlestorm #WNBAPlayoffs #Clutch
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) September 5, 2018
Go head and build a statue outside the key for @S10Bird she’s a legend in the town!
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) September 5, 2018
I WOULD LIKE TO FORMALLY APOLOGIZE TO SUE BIRD FOR NOT NAMING ALL THREE OF MY SONS AFTER SUE BIRD
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) September 5, 2018
um no dont sue bird
— birdsrightsactivist (@ProBirdRights) September 5, 2018
Now the Storm must prep for a WNBA Finals series against the Washington Mystics, a team led by ice-cold scoring machine Elena Delle Donne. The best-of-five series kicks off this week with two home games in KeyArena: Game 1 goes down at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, and Game 2 tips off at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept 9. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster. If the series goes the distance, Game 5 would return to KeyArena at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.
Games 1 and 2 will be televised on ESPNews and ABC, respectively. All other games in the series will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
If the Finals turn out to be as thrilling as the last round, you’re not going to want to miss these games.
WNBA Finals: Seattle Storm vs. Washington Mystics
Game 1: Sept. 1 at 6 p.m., KeyArena (Televised on ESPNews)
Game 2: Sept. 9 at 12:30 p.m., KeyArena (Televised on ABC)
Game 3: Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. (Televised on ESPN 2)
Game 4: Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. (Televised on ESPN 2, if necessary)
Game 5: Sept. 16 at 5 p.m., KeyArena (Televised on ESPN 2, if necessary)