(Bradenton, FL) – The Seattle Storm are peaking at the right time. They got better with each playoff game against the Minnesota Lynx. Seattle won the first game on a last-second buzzer-beater, then Game 2 by 10 points, and Game 3 by 21 points. And with that, the Storm are headed back to the WNBA Finals for the 4th time in franchise history. It is also the 2nd time in three seasons. For Breanna Stewart, it’ll be her second consecutive trip to the Finals as she missed the entire 2019 season with an Achilles injury.
Speaking of Stewart, boy did she look good out there. The former MVP was just special in this closeout game. Stewart finished with a game-high 31 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. She also had three steals and two blocked shots. She had a major impact on both ends of the floor and finished with a +22 in plus/minus rating.
Another positive sign was the fact Stewart shot the ball extremely well. She went 14-22 (64%) from the floor including 2-4 (50%) from three-point range. Stewart has been struggling with her shot in this playoff series averaging just around 33% field goal shooting entering Game 3. Stewart admitted after Game 2 that she was still getting her wind back after not playing in a game for about two weeks.
The Storm had a long lay off due to getting the double-bye from a Top 2 seed. On top of that, Stewart sat out the final two games of the regular season to rest an injury.
Stewart wasn’t the only one who “struggled” in the first two games of the series. Sue Bird also was not shooting the ball particularly well. And she also had multiple turnovers in Game 2 that were uncharacteristic of the 17-year veteran. But Bird really brought it in Game 3. The long-time star player for Seattle scored 16 points and dished out nine assists, coming oh so close to a double-double.
Stewart and Bird came to play in this game with a mission on their minds. They were advancing to the WNBA Finals no matter what on Sunday. Both players scored eight points apiece in the first quarter allowing Seattle to get out to a 24-12 lead.
Mercedes Russell was the only other player for Seattle to reach double figures with 10 points off the bench. But the team got solid contributions from several players including nine points from Epiphanny Prince, seven points for Jewell Loyd, and five for Sami Whitcomb.
In total, Seattle’s bench outscored Minnesota’s 32-7. The Storm’s bench struggled in Game 1 but were the difference makers over the final two games in the playoff series. In Game 2, they outscored the Lynx 21-8.
In the losing effort, Minnesota got strong contributions from four players. Napheesa Collier led her team with 22 points and 15 rebounds. But during the game, it didn’t really feel like she had that type of dominant performance. It’s probably because this game felt like it might be over by half time with the Storm up 15 points and Collier only had four points through the first two quarters. In fact, Collier had just eight points at the end of the third period. She added 14 points in the 4th quarter, with a lot of those points coming in “garbage time” and Seattle leading by 20+ points.
Crystal Dangerfield had her best game of the series. She scored 16 points on 7-19 FG shooting. Interestingly enough, Seattle switched defensive assignments in Game 3. Alysha Clark had been locking Dangerfield down throughout the first two games in the series. She scored just four points in Game 1 and had 10 points in Game 2 while primarily being shadowed by Clark. In Game 3, Seattle had Sue Bird on her more with Clark covering Bridget Carleton more. Carleton was held scoreless in this game after having a huge impact in Game 1. That’s the Alysha Clark effect.
Damiris Dantas continued to shine for Minnesota scoring 16 points on 4-8 field goal shooting. Dantas has been one of the biggest surprises of the season as she’s really blossomed into an excellent scorer. Her performance was so great this season that she received a two-year contract extension before this season even ended.
You can read about that here: Dantas earned a contract extension.
Dantas should be a huge part of the Lynx franchise moving forward, along with Collier and Dangerfield. Especially, if Maya Moore does not return to WNBA basketball next season. That will certainly be something to keep an eye on throughout the off-season and into next year.
Lastly, Odyssey Sims was the only other player to score in double figures. She had 10 points, but she did not have a great game. Going just 3-11 (27%) from the floor.
After both teams shot lights out from the three-point range through the first two games of this series, both cooled off in the final game. The Lynx were shooting 46% from long distance through the first two games but shot just 32% (7-22) in the final game of the series. The near 50% from three is pretty difficult to maintain and Minnesota finally regressed back to the norm. In doing so, it allowed Seattle to win the game by 20+ points. Something they did to the Lynx in the regular season as well.
Seattle was actually even worse from beyond the arc in this game, shooting just 7-26 (27%). But they were able to dominate in the paint, scoring 48 points. Many of those coming from Breanna Stewart and Mercedes Russell.
In total, Seattle shot 47% (37-78) for the game while holding Minnesota to just 38% (26-68). The Storm also moved the ball extremely well with 31 assists in the game. Earning many of those in transition. Seattle held a 13-2 edge in fastbreak points. Seattle’s defense also forced them into 19 turnovers; while the Storm had just 7 total themselves which is very low for a Seattle team that loves to play fast uptempo basketball.
Around the W
The Connecticut Sun couldn’t get it done and there will be a decisive Game 5 in their semifinals series. The Las Vegas Aces played their best game of the WNBA Playoffs in an 84-75 victory. A’ja Wilson was great again with 18 points and 13 rebounds. However, most of this series she hasn’t received much help from any of the other teammates. But that wasn’t the case in Game 4.
Angel McCoughtry used a time machine to return back to 2012-2013 when she led the WNBA in scoring in back-to-back seasons. McCoughtry led all scorers with 29 points. She also had five rebounds and six assists. McCoughtry scored 16 points in the 3rd quarter alone which turned a one-point deficit at half time into an 11 point lead after three quarters of play.
It truly was the difference in the game. Up to that point, it was a back and forth contest with Connecticut holding a small edge.
Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride also stepped up when their team needed them the most. Robinson had her best game of the playoffs with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists. McBride had 11 points but also knocked down some big
shots in the 2nd half.
The Aces needed all of it as they avoided elimination. Also, because 6th woman of the year, Dearica Hamby was a late scratch with a knee injury. There had been some conflicting reports but it sounds like Hamby may be out for the rest of the WNBA playoffs which would be a huge loss for the Aces.
In the losing effort, the Connecticut Sun had four players score in double figures and another player (Briann January) had nine points. Jasmine Thomas led the way with 25 points and six assists. Alyssa Thomas had 15 points and eight rebounds in this game. But she just didn’t have the impact on the game that we’ve seen from her in Games 1 and 3. DeWanna Bonner had 10 points and 15 rebounds in the game. However, Bonner was held scoreless in the 2nd half which really hurt her team when they needed her. Brionna Jones also had 10 points, but she was also in foul trouble throughout most of the game.
If you have enjoyed this article and want to read the complete edition with full quarter by quarter breakdowns, several quotes from players and Storm Coach Gary Kloppenburg, as well as an additional interview with Coach on what it means to him to make the WNBA Finals, make sure to check out the link below!