In many respects, the WNBA’s most unusual season ever had arguably the most predictable result: The Seattle Storm taking home the 2020 league championship. Behind the stellar play of its star duo of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, Seattle completed its series sweep over the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday, winning 92-59, to claim this year’s title and the franchise’s second in three years.
For Stewart personally, Tuesday was far from her best game. While she ended the contest with 26 points and four rebounds, she dealt with foul trouble throughout, so much so that she was forced to the bench for the final seven minutes of the first half. But the collective talent of the Storm rallied in her absence—extending a two-point second quarter Seattle lead to seven by halftime. In the game’s final 20 minutes, Stewart, not surprisingly, provided an added boost and Seattle pulled away from Las Vegas.
With the win, the former UConn star added yet another trophy to one of the sport’s most accomplished resumes. At just 26 years of age, she has won two WNBA titles, two Finals MVPs, a league MVP and a Rookie of the Year award. And that omits her international success and collegiate accolades.
“What I think [Stewart] always brings to the table is confidence, there’s an air about her,” Bird said following Seattle’s Game 1 win.
While Seattle lost both of its matchups to the Aces in the regular season, Bird missed each of the two games. Throughout the Finals, the 11-time All-Star made her presence known.
She recorded a Finals-record 16 assists in Game 1 and notched a 16-point, 10-assist double-double in Game 2. In Game 3, Bird settled for five points and seven assists.
“We seem like we just get easier shots,” head coach Gary Kloppenburg said prior to the series, referring to Bird’s impact. “The floor just spaces out so much better.”
But Seattle’s spacing is also a reflection of its overall roster talent. Two-time WNBA All-Star Jewell Lloyd finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in the victory Tuesday. Alysha Clark, who led the WNBA in three-point shooting percentage in the regular season, added 10 points. And that’s doesn’t even get into the team’s reserves, which Bird described as being a “starting five on the bench” ahead of the 2020 campaign. They combined for 27 points in Tuesday’s closeout win.
Playing for their season, the Aces came out firing, jumping out to a 10–2 lead. But Las Vegas suffered from 11 first-half turnovers and allowed Seattle to rebound after a slow start. 2020 league MVP A’ja Wilson finished the contest with 18 points, though, 14 of them came in the first half. And Seattle’s league-best defense limited their opponents to just 33% shooting from the field.
The Storm’s victory Tuesday marked a fitting end to the latest chapter in Stewart’s WNBA career. After missing the entirety of the 2019 WNBA season after tearing her Achilles tendon while playing overseas, the former UConn star appeared to regain her past form, and often times looked like the best version of herself. While her regular season averages were slightly lower than her 2018 totals, she played her best basketball in the league’s most important games. Seattle swept the Lynx 3–0 in the league semifinals to advance to the league’s most important series. And heading into Game 3 on Tuesday, she was averaging 25.6 points per game in the playoffs, the most in the league.
Stewart’s performance in Game 1 vs. the Aces helped shape the Finals. With her team leading by just two points heading into the final frame of Game 1, she opened the quarter with an 11–0 run by herself, en route to a career-playoff-high 37 point performance, one shy of the WNBA Finals record. Seattle cruised to a double-digit victory.
In Game 2, she recorded a more tepid 22 points, still a game-high, as Seattle won again. In Game 3, she exhibited similar dominance.
The 26-year-old forward told The New York Times prior to the season that she felt her team was potentially hungrier for a title this year than they were back in 2018. “We’re here and we want to do what we’ve come here to do,” Stewart said back in the middle of the summer.
The franchise’s central goal was always to claim its fourth championship. Led by two of the league’s all-time greats, it’s done just that.