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Five Takeaways from Game 2 of the 2020 WNBA Finals presented by YouTube TV

The Seattle Storm are one win away from capturing their fourth WNBA championship in franchise history after winning Game 2 over the Las Vegas Aces 104-91 on Sunday to take a 2-0 series lead.

Here are five key takeaways from Seattle’s Game 2 win.

1. Balanced Effort From Seattle

In their Game 1 win, Breanna Stewart (37 points) and Jewell Loyd (28 points) combined to score 70% of Seattle’s total points (65 of 93). Game 2 was a different story as the Storm had much more balance to their scoring. Stewart still led the way with 22 points, but Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard added 21 apiece after the two combined for just 10 points in Game 1.

This was just the third time in WNBA Finals history that a team had three players score at least 20 points in the same game. Seattle had the top three scorers in the game, as A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 20 points.

Seattle vs. Las Vegas (2020, Game 2): Breanna Stewart 22, Natasha Howard 21, Alysha Clark 21
Connecticut vs. Washington (2019, Game 2): Jonquel Jones 32, Courtney Williams 22, Alyssa Thomas 21
Phoenix vs. Indiana (2009, Game 1): Cappie Pondexter 23, Penny Taylor 23, Diana Taurasi 22

The 104 points scored by the Storm were the most in a game in this year’s WNBA Playoffs; the previous high was 94 by Connecticut in the opening round.

The 21 points from Clark were a playoff career high as she bounced back from a tough shooting night in Game 1 of this series, when she finished 2-13 from the field and 0-5 from 3-point range. Clark led the WNBA in 3-point shooting this season (52.2%) and returned to form in Game 2 as she shot 8-12 from the field and 3-6 from beyond the arc.

Howard has the unenviable task of being the primary defender on Wilson in this series, so anything she can add on the offensive end is an added bonus. Her 21 points in Game 2 matched her scoring output from the three previous games combined. She shot 9-10 from the field and added 8 boards, 2 blocks and 2 assists.

2. More Records Fall

After Sue Bird set the individual record for assists in a WNBA Finals or WNBA Playoffs game with 16 in Game 1, she added another 10 in Game 2 to become the just the second player to record at least 10 assists in back-to-back Finals games in the same season; L.A.’s Nikki Teasley accomplished the feat during the 2002 WNBA Finals.

Bird wasn’t the only Storm player dropping dimes in Game 2. Seattle had five players finish with at least four assists as they dished out a WNBA Finals record 33 assists on their 40 made baskets.

The previous team record of 27 – held by the 2014 Mercury and the 2020 Storm from Game 1 – was actually topped by both teams in Game 2 as the Aces finished with 29 assists on their 39 field goals. Here is the updated list:

33: Seattle Storm (10/04/2020)
29: Las Vegas Aces (10/04/2020)
27: Seattle Storm (10/02/2020)
27: Phoenix Mercury (09/07/2014)

Breanna Stewart became the first player in WNBA history to record back-to-back games with at least five 3-pointers made in the WNBA Finals. She has shot 5-8 from beyond the arc in each of the first two games of the series.

Stewart also tied a record with her fifth consecutive WNBA Finals game with at least 20 points scored. Stewart made her Finals debut in 2018 with a three-game sweep of Washington and has now scored at least 20 points in every Finals game she has played.

5: Breanna Stewart, Seattle (09/07/2018 – 10/04/2020)
5: Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta (09/14/2010 – 10/07/2011)
5: Cynthia Cooper, Houston (08/30/1997 – 09/02/1999)

3. Climbing The Charts

Angel McCoughtry finished with 17 points on 8-16 shooting for the Aces in Game 2. The 17 points brought her career playoff total to 868, passing Deanna Nolan for eighth place on the all-time playoff scoring list.

McCoughty has racked up those 868 points in only 40 playoff games; no other player in the top 13 of that list has played in fewer than 48 games. McCoughtry’s 21.7 points per game average in the playoff ranks third all-time among the 236 players that have appeared in at least 10 playoff games. She trails only Breanna Stewart (24.5 in 15 GP) and Cynthia Cooper (23.3 in 19 GP).

Sue Bird became only the second player in WNBA history with at least 300 playoff assists and did so in just 52 games; Lindsay Whalen holds the record with 341 playoff assists in a record 82 games played.

In Game 2, Bird shot 4-7 from beyond the arc to bring her career total to 93 3-pointers made, passing Kristi Toliver for fifth place on the all-time list. Bird trails Katie Douglas (95) by just two 3-pointers for fourth place.

4. Bright Spots For Vegas

It may be tough to find a silver lining after going down 0-2 in The Finals, but there are few performances by the Aces that stood out in Game 2.

The Aces signed Emma Cannon to a rest-of-season contract on Sept. 9, with only a week remaining in the 2020 regular season. Cannon joined the WNBA in 2017 as an undrafted free agent with Phoenix. After playing 2017 with the Mercury, Cannon was waived during training camp in each of the following two years.

With Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby out for the rest of the playoffs, coach Bill Laimbeer is looking deeper on his bench for contributors and Cannon provided a spark in Game 2, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting, while adding five rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes off the bench. Cannon entered Game 2 having scored a total of four points in her first four games with the Aces.

In addition to Cannon, the Aces also got nine points on 3-7 shooting from deep from Sugar Rodgers off the bench. Rodgers, a long distance specialist, had been mired in a shooting slump. Since Sept. 1, Rodgers had shot just 3-27 (11.1%) from beyond the arc, including 0-9 in Las Vegas’ first six playoff games.

If the first two games have proved anything, it is Las Vegas is going to need all the points they can generate, so if Rodgers’ Game 2 performance breaks her out of her slump, that’s a good sign for the Aces.

A good example of this would be Kayla McBride, who shot a combined 2-14 from 3-point range in the semifinals against the Sun before going 3-7 from long range in Game 1. She followed that up with a 4-6 performance in Game 2 as finished with 14 points.

5. Aces Free Throws vs. 3-Pointers

During the regular season, the Aces led all teams in free throws made (19.0 per game) and free throws attempted (23.4 per game). They came close to matching those averages in Game 1 as they finished the game 16-20 at the free throw line.

Game 2 was a different story as the Aces earned just five free throw attempts for the entire game. To put that number in context, Las Vegas’ previous low in this year’s playoffs was 11 free throw attempts and their low during the regular season was 12.

The last time this team attempted five or fewer free throws in a game was on June 23, 2017 when the team was still known as the San Antonio Stars.

The Aces scoring distribution in The Finals is drastically different than what we saw from them throughout the 22-game regular season and their five-game Semifinals series with Connecticut.

Time Period %PTS 2PT %PTS 3PT %PTS FT
Regular Season 64.2 14.3 21.5
Semifinals 69.4 8.3 22.3
Finals 56.1 31.6 12.3

 

The good news for Las Vegas is that they are shooting the 3-point shot well (18-40, 45.0%). However, the balance of their offense in The Finals does not match the identity of the team we saw all season long. Their 3-point attempts have nearly doubled from the regular season (11.5 per game) to The Finals (20.0 per game). And their free throw attempts have nearly been cut in half from the regular season (23.4 per game) to The Finals (12.5 per game).