Who’s the Storm’s true Game 5 MVP? And more stuff Sue Bird wants you to know about the WNBA Finals

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Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird in action against the Phoenix Mercury in a semifinal basketball playoff game Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Seattle. The Storm won 94-84 and they advance to the WNBA finals against the Washington Mystics. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) OTK OTK (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

Sue Bird got all the credit for the Storm's epic Game 5 win against the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Semifinals. But that's a myopic way to look at it, Bird says. Broken nose or not, the true hero of Game 5 was ...

Storm point guard Sue Bird stole the show in the Storm’s Game 5 WNBA semifinals win over the Phoenix Mercury with 14 points in a transcendent fourth quarter.

But, shortly before the Storm blew out the Mystics Friday night at KeyArena to take a 1-0 lead in the WNBA Finals, Bird had a message to relay to Storm fans.

“I’ve gotten a lot of credit for Game 5. Probably too much credit,” Bird wrote for The Players Tribune in a piece published Friday afternoon.

“Listen, I’ll admit it, it’s a good story: Vet gets her face busted up, puts on a superhero mask, becomes unstoppable from three and leads her team to victory,” Bird wrote. “But anyone who watched the whole thing, they know I probably only ranked third on the list of reasons that we won that game. Here’s my top four: (1) Stewie, (2) Stewie, (3) A great team effort, (4) Stewie.”

She has a point– WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart did, after all, score 28 points in Game 5 and was a consistent force throughout the game.

Bird also revealed for the first time one of the big reasons why she re-signed with the Storm at the end of the 2015 season, when, as she terms it, “we had pretty much hit rock bottom: 10-24. Almost last in the league.”

As she entered free agency that offseason, she contemplated leaving and signing with a team that was better poised to compete for a title. But, as we know now, she ultimately stayed.

Why?

Aside from an overwhelming desire to play out her career in a city that had come to feel like home, there was this other factor: “We won the lottery,” Bird wrote. “We got Breanna.”

Quote: “One moment, we were just another rebuilding team. And then the next moment, we were the team with Breanna Stewart on it. … Even to call it the “lottery” — that’s underselling it, right? Because the lottery is annual. Once every year, for sure, there’s a No. 1 pick. But what happened to us, with Stewie? I’d say it’s more like once every generation or so, that there’s a prospect of her caliber. There’s a LeBron James, or a Tim Duncan, you know? That was Breanna.”

“We won, so I stayed,” Bird wrote. “And now we’re back.”

Mic drop?

Not quite, Bird’s highly entertaining Players Tribune piece included at least a dozen other fun facts the Storm’s “mother hen” wants you to know about her team’s remarkable run to the WNBA Finals.

These include:

  • Having now broken her nose five — count ’em, five — times, Bird doesn’t own just one plastic face protector…

Quote: “Contrary to reports, I don’t actually own a protective face-mask. Like, I don’t just….… “own a mask” that I “have ready” in the ‘unlikely event’ that I ‘break my nose.’… I own three.”

  • Stewie fixed her shot in Game 5

Bird’s big fourth quarter was preceded by an 0-for-8 shooting performance in the second and third quarters combined.

Then, quote: “…my flurry of jumpers there, in crunch time — Stewie really deserves credit for those as well. I started the game shooting alright, but for some reason went cold around the second quarter. And it was Stewie who came up to me, while I was on the bench in the third, and she said, “Gotta use your legs more, gotta use your legs more.” And I’m like, “Huh?” And Stewie looks at me and she’s like, “Your shot. It’s short. Gotta use your legs more.”

  • That epic five-game semifinals series against the Mercury felt like a final to the players, too. And, Bird says, it made the Storm believe that they’re truly capable of winning this whole thing.”

Quote: “(It was) …somewhere around Game 4, where it became clear that this wasn’t your average series. And one of the things that was so unique about it, to me, it’s how — with us being this younger team, and then with Phoenix being, like I said, a lower seed who’d had to deal with injuries all year?? I think both of our teams kind of came to believe that they were a team worthy of winning the championship — during the series. … here was that feeling of slamming the door shut on Phoenix in those first two games at our place — of taking a kill shot from the GOAT and living to tell about it. And I think that’s when everything really changed for us. Now, we didn’t just want to be great; we knew we were great. Which made losing that much more unacceptable. And I think it was the exact same for Phoenix, after coming back against us in Games 3 and 4, to even the series. To them, that’s the moment where it all came together. They knew they were “championship” good now. Which just meant it was going to be all the more devastating for them to fall short of a championship.”

The main takeaway from what might have been the most entertaining semifinal series in WNBA Playoff history?

Quote — (basically, Bird voicing what everyone else who watched that series also thought by the end): “As much as it was a thrill to win that series, it was really tough that someone had to lose. And it was even tougher when you add to it that one of the losers had to be my best friend in the league.” 

  • GOAT, in this case, is a reference to Bird’s BFF and Mercury star Diana Taurasi, a fellow UConn alum. And, as Bird says, here’s why they’re BFFs.

Quote: “It couldn’t have been more than an hour after I got home from Game 5 that I was sound asleep. After a win like that, you sleep really well. Then I woke up the next morning, and checked my texts. Normal stuff after a big win: ‘Great game,’ ‘Congrats,’ ‘Saw you on SportsCenter,’ etc.

Oh, yeah, and then I had one from Diana.

It was from around midnight — probably an end-of-season thing with her teammates.

I tap the message to view.

SUE. WE’RE OUT AND I’M PLAYING PAC-MAN. I JUST LOST. AND GUESS WHO COMES UP AS THE HIGH SCORE. SOMEONE NAMED SUE. BYE.”

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FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2017 file photo, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (3) talks with Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) during the second half of a single-game WNBA basketball playoff matchup, in Tempe, Ariz. Bird and Taurasi headline the 29 players chosen for the U.S. women’s basketball team pool. Eleven members of the 2016 Olympic team that won a sixth consecutive gold medal for the Americans are in the pool that was announced Thursday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Stefanie Loh: or sloh@seattletimes.com. . Stef Loh has covered college football in four conferences on both coasts, but her heart has always been rooted in the Pacific Northwest. She joined The Seattle Times in August 2015. She loves wine tasting, Olympic weightlifting, fall colors and college football Saturdays.