The Storm decided to pass on drama. Instead it went with total domination.
Seattle did away with suspense. In these WNBA Finals, it opted for complete subjugation.
Sometimes a championship is won on a key shot or critical call in the final minute that leaves the opposing team wondering “what if.” And then there are titles such as these — the ones that leave no doubt.
The Storm squashed the Las Vegas Aces 92-59 Tuesday to win its fourth WNBA title and second in three years. The players got on the metaphorical megaphone and announced to the world that no other team is anywhere close to its level.
Averaging 28.3 points over the three-game sweep, Seattle forward Breanna Stewart won her second Finals MVP and established herself as the WNBA’s best player. And the ageless point guard Sue Bird, whose 11 assists per game set a Finals record, won her fourth ring with the organization. It was a historic win that punctuated a historic season — and one that some players couldn’t quite believe just happened.
“I’m having this in-shock moment, because it doesn’t really feel real that we just won,” said Bird on a Zoom call from the WNBA bubble in Florida, better known as the “wubble.” “This is crazy, to be honest. I can’t believe we’re here right now.”
Well, it’s not that crazy. Seattle may have been the No. 2 seed compared to the Aces’ No. 1, but expectations soared when the season began. The Storm had won the title in 2018 with a healthy roster, but were ousted in the first round last year after Stewart and Bird suffered season-ending injuries.
Granted, Stewart was coming back from a ruptured Achilles and Bird will be 40 in less than two weeks. But with fellow All-Stars Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard returning as well, anything less than another trophy would have seemed like a disappointment.
Come playoff time, though, the Storm chose the kind route of alleviating their fans’ stress. They won all six of their postseason games by an average of 15.3 points. The Aces never got closer than 13, which was the disparity in each of the first two games.
The Storm basically went full hurricane.
“It felt like a lot of pressure because the expectations were there, but these are all such good teams here from top to bottom,” said Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg. “I’m really proud of our group. They stayed together through a lot of weird stuff … it’s been historic for our team and the league.”
Historic for the league? Yes. But perhaps more accurately: terrifying for the 11 other teams. Stewart is just 26 years old and may not have yet peaked. Loyd, who had 19 points Tuesday and averaged 18.3 in the Finals, turned 27 Monday.
The Storm’s four titles are tied with Houston and Minnesota for the most of all time, but they appear to be setting up a few more this decade. Bird wouldn’t take the bait when asked if the Storm had established themselves as a “dynasty” by winning two of the past three. She noted that Minnesota had won four in seven years and felt that was the standard for the “dynasty” tag.
Barring another injury, though, there’s little reason to think Seattle won’t be the prohibitive favorites — especially given how well backup point guard Jordin Canada has played this year with Bird on the bench.
But Tuesday wasn’t about forecasting the future so much as it was celebrating the present. In such a trying year, how could anything else be the case?
There was the cancer-surviving head coach of the Storm, Dan Hughes, who declined to go to Florida for health concerns. There was Sami Whitcomb leaving the wubble to be with her wife for the birth of their first child. There was a team confined to closed quarters for nearly 100 days. This was all about the now.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for wow.
What the Storm did throughout these playoffs was unlike anything the WNBA has seen. Its obliteration of its Finals opponent won’t soon be forgotten. So don’t blame the players if they take some time to enjoy the achievement.
“There’s plenty of alcohol in the wubble,” said Stewart, who wore goggles after the game to protect her eyes from Champagne. “That’s how we’re going to celebrate.”
Hey, they earned it. It’s possible no WNBA team has been this dominant in the Finals. When you pour it on like that, you deserve to pour a drink.