Seattle leads the all-time series between the Storm and Washington, 21-16, but the teams have never met in the postseason, until now.
Here’s a breakdown of the 2018 WNBA Finals matchup. The Storm is going for their third WNBA title, while Washington is in the finals for the first time since the franchise debuted 20 years ago.
Breanna Stewart vs. Elena Delle Donne
Both are next-generation superstars who can score and defend on the perimeter and inside. League MVP and two-time All-Star Stewart grew up idolizing Delle Donne, a five-time All-Star and 2015 league MVP. Both players set franchise single-season scoring records. And both are seeking their first WNBA title to add to stellar basketball resumes that includes a 2016 Olympic gold medal.
Delle suffered a bone bruise on her left knee in a Game 2 of the semifinals. She sat out Game 3 and has played the past two games while averaging 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 35.5 minutes in a pair of wins. Delle is making her second trip to the WNBA Finals. She lost 3-0 in 2014 with the Chicago Sky.
Jewell Loyd vs. Kristi Toliver
Shooting slumps in the WNBA semifinals tell the story of these perimeter-oriented guards. Toliver, a two-time All-Star and 2016 WNBA champion, was 10 for 39 from the field in the first three games of Washington’s series against Atlanta before rebounding in Games 4 and 5 when she scored 22 and 19 points respectively. Toliver is a deadly perimeter sniper who 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting, including a league record nine three-pointers in a single-elimination playoff win over New York last year.
Since scoring 23 points in Game 1, Loyd has struggled offensively in the playoffs. She’s connected on just 9 of 36 shots in the past four games and was benched due to ineffectiveness in the fourth quarter of Game 5. If Loyd doesn’t rediscover her shooting touch, the Storm could turn to Game 5 star and backup guard Sami Whitcomb.
Sue Bird vs. Natasha Cloud
It’s been a breakout season for third-year veteran Cloud, who averaged career highs in minutes (26.5), points (8.6), assists (4.6) and rebounds during the regular season. The former 2015 second-round pick also shot career highs in field goal percentage (38.6), three-pointers (43.6) and free throws (77.8).
Cloud and Toliver are equally adept at running the offense while Bird is the unquestioned leader of the Storm’s attack. The 17-year-veteran is coming off her best playoff performance — a 22-point performance in Game 5 that included 14 points in the fourth quarter. Bird has nearly played in more playoffs games (43) than Cloud and Toliver (48) combined.
Natasha Howard vs. LaToya Sanders
Defense and grit define the Howard and Sanders, who are often overlooked while providing invaluable contributions that allows their respective teammates to shine. No one in the playoffs has blocked more shots than Sanders (20) who is third in steals (8) and sixth in rebounds (39). Howard, WNBA All-Defensive first team pick, is also capable of scoring 20 or more points.
Alysha Clark vs. Ariel Atkins
Clark, a defensive ace who has dealt with a hamstring injury, spent the previous series hounding Diana Taurasi, arguably the WNBA’s greatest player. Slowing down Atkins won’t be easy. The 22-year-old Mystics guard has made a strong case as to why she’s the league’s best rookie with a playoff performance that belies her age. She’s second among the Mystics in scoring (15.0 points per game) while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 45.8 on three-pointers. With Delle Donne hampered with a knee injury, Atkins led Washington in scoring with 20 points in a decisive Game 5.
2018 MYSTICS VS. STORM HEAD TO HEAD
May 29 at Seattle
Storm 81, Mystics 77
Without Elena Delle Donne, a short-handed Washington squad with just eight players was able to keep pace with the Storm and tied the game 76-76 with 1:46 left. Jewell Loyd came up big throughout the game while tallying 27 points. She scored six of the final seven points for Seattle. Breanna Stewart added 25 points. Ahead 80-77, Natasha Howard intercepted a pass to seal the victory. Washington received 20 points from Kristi Toliver.
July 8 at Seattle
Sue Bird scored a regular-season 21 points and became the Storm’s all-time leading scorer, passing Lauren Jackson (6,007). Down eight, the Storm outscored the Mystics 27-10 over the final seven minutes of the third quarter to lead 75-66 heading into the fourth. Stewart (25 points and 10 rebounds) put Seattle up 88-74 with 4:18 left and Washington never got closer than six points the rest of the way. Delle Donned finished with 29 points.
Aug. 9 at Washington
Playing the fourth of a five-game road trip, Seattle didn’t put up much resistance in its most lopsided loss of the season. Washington never trailed and led by as many as 27 points. Delle Donne scored 30 points and LaToya Sanders had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Mystics, which captured its fifth straight win. Seattle, which had its five-game winning streak snapped, received 15 points apiece from Loyd and Howard.
|G Sue Bird||5-10||11.6||2.6||6.8|
|G Jewell Loyd||5-10||11.0||5.0||3.6|
|F Alysha Clark||5-11||7.2||5.4||2.2|
|F Natasha Howard||6-2||14.0||6.8||1.2|
|F Breanna Stewart||6-4||24.0||7.4||1.8|
|G Kristi Toliver||5-7||13.8||2.3||5.0|
|G Ariel Atkins||5-11||15.0||4.3||1.8|
|G Natasha Cloud||6-0||9.0||4.8||5.0|
|F LaToya Sanders||6-3||9.8||6.5||2.7|
|F Elena Delle Donne||6-5||21.4||12.0||3.6|
Comparing the Storm’s WNBA Finals teams
|Seattle is playing in the title series for the third time. Here’s how the teams compare statistically:|
|Points per game||87.2||81.8||71.7|
How the Storm’s WNBA Finals team was built
|Seattle ended the regular season with the best record in the WNBA, at 26-8.|
|Sue Bird||1st pick, 2002|
|Jewell Loyd||1st pick, 2015|
|Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis||3rd pick, 2015|
|Breanna Stewart||1st pick, 2016|
|Jordin Canada||5th pick, 2018|
|Free agency||Year acquired|
|Crystal Langhorne||From Washington, 2014|
|Noelle Quinn||From Phoenix, 2016|
|Natasha Howard||From Minnesota, 2018|
|Coach: Dan Hughes|
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