Seattle ran away with it, dominating from the tip and using a 17-0 first-quarter run to put the Lynx behind for the rest of the game. Breanna Stewart was locked in, scoring 31 points on 63.6 percent shooting (14 of 22). She added six rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks.
Bird neared a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds while the bench scored 32 points.
The Storm won the 2018 WNBA championship behind Stewart, that year’s MVP, and Bird. They both missed last season due to injury, allowing others to step up and gain starter experience. The team with a “starting five on the bench,” as Bird said prior to the season, are in line for the franchise’s fourth championship. It would put Seattle in a tie with Minnesota and the Houston Comets for most titles all-time.
The Storm now rest until the WNBA Finals begin on Friday night. The No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces forced a deciding Game 5 with the No. 7 seed Connecticut Sun earlier Sunday. They will play on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Lynx struggled vs. Storm in ‘wubble’
The Lynx struggled with turnovers, totaling 19 by game’s end to the Storm’s five, and couldn’t move the ball around as well as the Storm. They had 17 assists to the Storm’s 31. They struggled with their shot, hitting 26 of 68 attempts (38.2 percent).
Minnesota began to claw back into the game in the third and came within seven points with 6:45 remaining. Stewart broke it and put in seven of the team’s nine straight points to put the win back at bay.
Naphessa Collier led the Lynx with a double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds. Damiris Dantas and Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield each had 16. The bench only had seven points and the team was again without Sylvia Fowles, who is still dealing with a calf injury.
Seattle has gotten the best of Minnesota throughout the “wubble” season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. According to Her Hoop Stats, Seattle beat Minnesota by a total of 39 points in two regular season meetings. The only team they beat by more was the two-win New York Liberty (57 points).
They beat the Lynx by a last-minute bucket in Game 1, then by 10 in Game 2 after the Lynx erased most of a 21-point deficit in the third quarter. Jewell Loyd scored 25 points for Seattle in Game 1, hitting 4 of 5 3-pointers, and 20 in Game 2, going 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told ESPN’s Holly Rowe ahead of the game that Loyd would get the “Diana Taurasi treatment” after those performances.
It worked and Loyd, who also dealt with some back tightness and was seen by trainers in the locker room, scored only seven points on 3 of 10 shooting. She missed all four 3-pointers and had three rebounds and three assists.
Take her out of contention and another star will stand up for the Storm.
Stewart nearly unstoppable in first half
Stewart, who missed 2019 with an Achilles tear, and Bird were in championship form from the onset of Game 3, contributing 58 percent of the Storm’s offense in the first half. Deep into the first quarter they were each up to eight points, while Minnesota had eight as a team.
Seattle went on a 17-0 run late in the first quarter, a large set of which came off of Lynx turnovers. After two buckets by Minnesota it was 24-12 going into the second quarter. The Storm offense didn’t let up, entering the half with a 46-31 lead.
Stewart had 16 points on 8 of 13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block in the first half. It seemed there was nothing she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do to put the Lynx away.
Bird neared a first-half double-double with 11 points and seven assists. She hit 3 of 7 3-pointers.
The two stars had the benefit of nearly two weeks of rest when they missed the final two games of the regular season due to minor injuries. As with many of the teams in the postseason, there was some settling in to do after such long layoffs.
By Game 3, they were locked in and are now three victories away from winning a second title in three years. Two of their four regular season losses were to the Aces.
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