Seattle storms back, then holds on to take 2-0 WNBA Finals lead over Washington Mystics

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1 of 32 Storm fans hold up a huge sign reading “Not in our house!” as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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2 of 32 Storm guard Sue Bird celebrates after Storm guard Jewell Loyd got possession on a jump ball with 6.9 seconds remaining as they led by one point as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. The possession helped the Storm narrowly beat Washington 75-73. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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3 of 32 Washington’s starters huddle as Mystics guard Kristi Toliver looks at the score as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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4 of 32 Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is pressured by Storm guard Sue Bird and Storm forward Natasha Howard as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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5 of 32 Storm guard Sami Whitcomb puts in a layup as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018.(Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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6 of 32 Sue Bird’s custom Kyrie Irving Nikes feature a cartoon granny, referencing her status as the oldest player in the league as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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7 of 32 Storm guard Sue Bird gathers her focus in the fourth quarter as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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8 of 32 Mystics guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and forward LaToya Sanders, right, make Storm forward Natasha Howard miss in the fourth quarter as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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9 of 32 The crowd goes nuts after Storm guard Sue Bird hits a 34-foot bank shot, but she looks unmoved in the fourth quarter as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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10 of 32 Storm forward Breanna Stewart shoots three of her 25 points as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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11 of 32 Seattle head coach Dan Hughes watches the second half with his arms crossed as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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12 of 32 Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is a long-time season ticket holder, and was one of the loudest fans as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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13 of 32 Mystics guard Ariel Atkins won’t let Storm guard Jewell Loyd get to the ball as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. Atkins put up 15 points during the game. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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14 of 32 Washington head coach Mike Thibault argues a call with the referees as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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15 of 32 Storm guard Jewell Loyd floats to the net for two in the third quarter as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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16 of 32 The Storm’s starters look humbled in the second half as they take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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17 of 32 Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne guards Storm guard Jewell Loyd in the third quarter as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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18 of 32 With just over a minute remaining, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver hits this shot to get the Mystics within one point of the Storm during for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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19 of 32 Storm guard Jewell Loyd gains possession on a jump ball between Natasha Howard and Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins with 6.9 seconds remaining as they led by one point as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. The possession helped the Storm narrowly beat Washington 75-73. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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20 of 32 Storm guard Sue Bird celebrates after Storm guard Jewell Loyd got possession on a jump ball with 6.9 seconds remaining as they led by one point as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. The possession helped the Storm narrowly beat Washington 75-73. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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21 of 32 Storm forward Natasha Howard wins the jump ball against Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins, tipping it to Storm guard Jewell Loyd with 6.9 seconds remaining as they led by one point as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. The possession helped the Storm narrowly beat Washington 75-73. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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22 of 32 Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen, left, and guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, right, grab for the ball from Storm forward Crystal Langhorne as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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23 of 32 Mystics guard Kristi Toliver defends Storm guard Sue Bird as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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24 of 32 Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne shoots over Storm forward Natasha Howard in the first half as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. With 12 points in the first half, Delle Donne has already scored more than she did in the first game, where she only put up 10 points. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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25 of 32 Storm forward Breanna Stewart is fouled by Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins with forward Elena Delle Donne defending as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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26 of 32 The Storm starters huddle during game two of the WNBA Finals as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics Sunday. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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27 of 32 Storm forward Breanna Stewart is all smiles during warmups before the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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28 of 32 Storm guard Sue Bird warms up before the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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29 of 32 Storm forward Breanna Stewart’s shoes honor Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and the 2010 championship team as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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30 of 32 Storm forward Breanna Stewart warms up before the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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31 of 32 Storm forward Alysha Clark warms up before the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
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32 of 32 Storm forward Crystal Langhorne warms up as the Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics for game two of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle Sunday September 9, 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Breanna Stewart had 25 points and Jewell Loyd scored 13 to help Seattle to a 75-73 win over the Washington Mystics in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals.

If this was the last WNBA game at KeyArena before its two-year, $700-million renovation — and there’s far from a guarantee it was — then the Storm gave its fans a thriller to remember.

Unlike Game 1, in which Seattle led the Washington Mystics by 27 points and cruised to a drama-free victory, neither team was up by more than five points in the second half of a game decided on the final play.

Ultimately, the Storm got a crucial defensive stop when it needed it the most and escaped with a 75-73 win on Sunday for a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.

Game 3 is 5 p.m. Wednesday at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va.

“This is just a gritty win,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who orchestrated some more fourth-quarter magic. “This wasn’t about execution. This was about finding a way. I don’t even have words to explain what exactly happened. It definitely did not go to plan.

“It was a tough game. It went back and forth. … It comes down to the last couple of plays. I don’t know. In these types of games, you go home knowing that in some ways you were lucky, but you also know you fought really hard to get it done.”

The All-Star guard, who is playing with a protective mask over her broken nose, banked in a desperation 35-foot three-pointer midway in the fourth to beat the shot clock and send the sold-out crowd of 14,212 into a frenzy.

“Just a prayer,” said Bird, who came up clutch in Game 2 and a decisive Game 5 in the semifinals over Phoenix.

Said Mystics coach Mike Thibault: “Tough to overcome a play like that. We played great defense on the possession, get them to take a 40-something foot shot, and it banks in, and it ends up being the difference in the game. I don’t know what you say.”

The 11-time All-Star finished with eight points, four assists and four rebounds, including a momentum-swinging basket that capped a 10-2 run and put the Storm ahead 68-63 with 6:53 left.

“We knew they weren’t going away,” Bird said. “They’re too good for that.”

Ariel Atkins and Kristi Toliver, who each scored 15 points, took over in the fourth for Washington. Toliver, a two-time All-Star guard, was particularly troublesome for the Storm late in the game.

On two occasions, Breanna Stewart canned a pair of free throws that gave the Storm a three-point lead and both times Toliver answered with midrange jumpers.

“Great players make tough shots,” Storm forward Alysha Clark said. “And she did. She made two big plays for them. … But you don’t let it affect you in any way.”

Stewart, who finished with a game-high 25 points, had a chance to put the Storm up by three once again.

The league MVP missed two free throws with 16.9 seconds left, setting up a dramatic, if not somewhat-controversial finish.

Down a point, the Mystics put the ball in Toliver’s hands. She drove by Bird on the left-side baseline. Bird tipped the ball away from Toliver, which resulted in mosh pit of players on the floor scrambling for the ball.

Officials ruled a jump ball between 6-foot-2 forward Natasha Howard and 6-3 forward Tianna Hawkins.

“I’m quick off the ground, so I knew I could direct it on the jump,” Howard said. “That turned out to be one of the biggest plays in the game and fortunately it went our way.”

Howard tipped to Jewell Loyd and five seconds expired before the Mystics fouled Clark. The Storm forward hit 1 of 2 free throws to cap a wild finish that had the Mystics furious with the officiating.

“I got fouled,” Toliver said about her turnover. “I think it was pretty blatant. It was pretty obvious. Sue is smart. She knows they have one foul to give. They wanted to foul before I could be in a shooting motion.

“I wish the officials had a little more basketball IQ like Sue does because that would have been the play instead of a jump ball.”

Bird insisted she was going for the steal.

“I’ve been doing that swipe-around-the-back thing since I was like 18 years old,” the 17-year veteran said. “I lunged out a little bit, which kind of gave her that pathway to get down the baseline, and once she went by me, I … was lucky to get a piece of the ball.”

Sue Bird breaks down what happened between herself and Kristi Tolliver on the final possession of the Storm’s win over the Mystics.

The Storm looked as if it might sail to another comfortable win early in the second quarter after going ahead by 12 points (28-16).

The Mystics held Stewart scoreless in the second and capitalized on eight first-half turnovers to take a 40-36 lead into halftime. Seattle finished with 15 turnovers.

With Elena Delle Donne (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting) playing her best game and scoring the most since she suffered a bone bruise in Game 2 of the semifinals, Washington led by as many as five points (59-54) late in the third.

The five-time All-Star didn’t make a basket the rest of the way. Stewart led the Storm with nine points in the fourth.

“I was able to get to the free-throw line, and I would have loved to have made those last two at the end,” said Stewart, who shot 7 of 13 from the field and connected on 10 of 14 free throws. “But the majority of the game, just being aggressive, assertive and doing the plays to win the game.”

The Storm didn’t shoot particularly well from the field (41.9 percent), on three pointers (6 of 23) or free throws (17 of 26), but Seattle held Washington to 0-for-16 shooting behind the arc.

It was the first time this season the Mystics did not make a shot behind the arc.

“I didn’t know we were 0 for 16,” Toliver said. “That’s a huge factor in the game, too. As a three-point shooting team, we need some of those to go in, and we’re going home, we feel really good, we feel really positive.”

When asked about possibly playing her last game at KeyArena before the remodel begins in October, Bird cut off the question abruptly.

“I’m not talking about that,” she said smiling. “Nice try though.”

Sue Bird talks about how Seattle’s improves defense has been a difference maker this year.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com. . Seattle Times staff reporter Percy Allen covers the Washington Huskies and Seattle Storm.