With an outstretched hand, Sue Bird seemed to reach back in time.
Stepping in front of a pass intended for Elena Delle Donne with just over two minutes to play on Sunday against Washington, the 20-year veteran went coast-to-coast for a layup that all but sealed an eventual 97-84 Seattle win.
The play sent a raucous crowd of 12,490 at Climate Pledge Arena into a frenzy, and the Storm into a best-of-five semifinals matchup with Las Vegas starting next Sunday.
“That steal just felt like a moment,” Bird said. “Like, this is over.”
Bird also posted her first double-double of the year, finishing with 18 points and 10 assists – a league record for a player of her age. Coach Noelle Quinn simply described Bird’s performance as “vintage Sue.”
“I’ve been a part of it as her teammate and now as her coach, to see there’s something about these moments that make me understand why she’s so great,” Quinn said. “You see her just kick a different gear mentally and physically.”
On an afternoon where Seattle finished just shy of the century mark for what would have been the third time in the last six games, all five starters finished in double figures to close out the round 1 series with the Mystics in just two games. Breanna Stewart had a double-double of her own with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jewell Loyd had 19 points. Natasha Cloud paced Washington with 21 points, with Delle Donne held to just 12 on 5-for-14 shooting – a far cry from her dominant 26-point game 1.
“I feel like everything was tough,” Delle Donne said. “Every possession was tough. It was hard to get going. They just played the better game.”
Seattle started hot, making five of their first six shots, and led by 10 after one quarter. The Storm took a 45-43 edge into halftime, buoyed by Loyd and Bird shooting a combined 7-for-8 from beyond the arc while Stewart was held without a field goal.
While the two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the second half, a Gabby Williams layup with 7:55 to play in the third quarter gave Seattle a lead that it kept for the remainder of the day. They stretched the advantage back to 10 by quarter’s end, and were up by as many as 17 early in the fourth before a late Washington push briefly cut the gap back to single digits.
Bird’s steal and layup gave Seattle a 13-point cushion, while a 3-pointer with 41 seconds to go capped the scoring.
“As much as I love Sue,” said Mystics head coach Mike Thibault, “I will be glad that she’s sitting over in the stands next year when we walk in this place.”
Now awaiting Seattle is top-seeded Las Vegas, with a pair of road games before returning home for game three on Sept. 4.
“They’ve played great basketball for the entire year,” Quinn said. “They’re solid. They have a lot of great players, and I know it’s going to be a battle.”
- Seattle’s Gabby Williams left the game in the third quarter and did not return after suffering a concussion
- At the age of 41, Bird became the oldest player in WNBA history to record a playoff double-double, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton
- Faces in the crowd: A pair of members of Seattle’s 2004 championship team, Sheri Sam and Simone Edwards, were in attendance Sunday, as well as University of Washington alum and Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, and longtime ESPN personality Kenny Mayne.