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Five Takeaways from Game 3 of the 2020 WNBA Finals presented by YouTube TV

The Seattle Storm are the 2020 WNBA champions after defeating Las Vegas 92-59 on Tuesday for their fourth title in franchise history.

With Seattle’s win, the most unique season in WNBA history as come to an end. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the WNBA brought all 12 teams to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida – which quickly became known as the Wubble – for a 22-game regular season and full postseason. The three-month endeavor combined outstanding play on the court with social justice statements and activations off the court.

Here are five takeaways from Seattle’s championship-clinching win.

Storm Join Elite Company

Seattle clinched its fourth WNBA championship to join the Houston Comets (1997-2000) and Minnesota Lynx (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) as the only teams in league history to win four titles.

The Storm lost their first-ever WNBA Finals game on Oct. 8, 2004 to the Connecticut Sun and have now won a record 11 straight WNBA Finals games.

• 2004: Seattle Storm 2, Connecticut Sun 1 (the last WNBA Finals to be a best-of-three)
• 2010: Seattle Storm 3, Atlanta Dream 0
• 2018: Seattle Storm 3, Washington Mystics 0
• 2020: Seattle Storm 3, Las Vegas Aces 0

With Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird both missing the 2019 season due to injury, the Storm team that won the 2018 title was never able to truly defend it with its full squad. With the entire team healthy in 2020, the Storm entered the season looking like championship favorites and delivered.

Outside of Sue Bird, who will turn 40 on Oct. 16, the core of this Storm team is young, led by the two-time Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, who just finished her fourth WNBA season with her second championship. If the Storm keep this team together, they have a great shot at being the first team to reach five titles.

MVP Stewie Better Than Ever

It truly is unbelievable that Breanna Stewart is just 18 months removed from tearing her Achilles’ tendon. After winning her first WNBA title, league MVP and Finals MVP in 2018, Stewart ruptured her right Achilles’ tendon in April 2019 while playing overseas.

Her 2019 WNBA season was lost; there was no chance to defend the title and go for back-to-back MVPs. In its place were countless hours of rehab as she worked her way back to full strength. An Achilles’ injury can end careers and has most certainly severely altered the careers of many others.

Somehow Breanna Stewart has come out on the other side of her Achilles’ injury even better than before. She’s lost none of the mobility that makes her such a unique player that can be devastating on the wing, in the post or in transition. Numerous times in this series, she beat the Aces’ bigs down the floor for easy scoring opportunities as Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd hit her with passes in stride for layups.

For the Finals, Stewart averaged 28.3 points per game (the second-highest scoring average in Finals history), 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.0 steals and shot 62.7% (32-51) from the field, 65.0% (13-20) from three and 80% (8-10) from the free throw line. She set a WNBA record as she scored at least 20 points in her sixth straight Finals game – she is 6-for-6 as she’s scored 20 or more in every Finals game of her career.

Add all that up and it equals her second Finals MVP award in just her fourth WNBA season. She becomes the fifth player in league history to win multiple Finals MVPs, joining Cynthia Cooper (4), Lisa Leslie (2), Diana Taurasi (2) and Sylvia Fowles (2).

Bird Adds Fourth Title to Incredible Resume

Sue Bird became the 10th player in WNBA history to win four championships. What sets Bird apart from the rest of the players on that list is the fact that she’s now won titles in three different decades (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020).

She already held the record for most years between titles at 14 when this series began and now she’s extended that record to 16 years. Her first title came in her third season and her fourth came in her 17th and her production in this series was off the charts.

YEAR PTS REB AST TOV FG% 3P%
2020 7.7 2.0 11.0 2.0 45.0 35.7
2018 7.3 3.0 7.0 1.7 34.8 26.7
2010 12.7 3.3 6.7 2.0 35.0 23.1
2004 10.0 4.7 3.7 3.3 39.1 12.5

 

Not only has Bird shown no signs of slowing down, she’s actually putting up historic numbers. In addition to breaking the WNBA Playoff record for assists in a game with 16 in Game 1, she also tied the WNBA Finals record for assists average in a Finals series with 11.0 per game.

After missing all of 2019 with a knee injury, Bird missed half of the 2020 regular season as she dealt with a bone bruise in her knee. But when playoff time came around, Bird was ready to lead the Storm back to another title. Should she return for an 18th season, she can look to tie Rebekkah Brunson as the only player with five WNBA titles to her credit.

“Interestingly enough it’s never a day of decision. I just kind of start working out and see how I feel,” she said. “I wish I could give you more. If the way I feel right now, if I go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way I don’t see why I won’t be playing next summer.”

Storm Make More History In Game 3

In a series that saw a number of record-breaking performances, the Storm closed out the series with another as their 33-point win in Game 3 was the largest margin of victory in a WNBA Finals game ever.

The Aces opened Game 3 on an 11-2 run to take their largest lead of the series just 2:33 into the game. Las Vegas led by seven (19-12) with 4:15 left to play in the opening quarter. From that point on, the Storm outscored the Aces 80-40 en route to the Game 3 win, the series sweep and the WNBA championship celebration.

The Storm went a perfect 6-0 in the postseason, becoming the first team since the 2013 Minnesota Lynx to go unbeaten in the playoffs. The Storm also accomplished the feat in 2010 (7-0).

Incredible Aces Season Ends With Tough Loss

With their season on the line in Game 3, the Aces came out strong, scoring the first seven points of the game and leading by as many as nine points early. However, the Storm answered back to take the lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.

While the Aces season ends in a disappointing 3-0 loss in The Finals, the 2020 seaosn will be remembered as one that exceeded expectations. After losing starters Liz Cambage (opt-out with medical exemption) and Kelsey Plum (Achilles) prior to the season beginning, the Aces went 18-4 in the regular season and earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. A’ja Wilson was outstanding from start to finish as she won league MVP honors in just her third WNBA season.

The Aces proved a lot in their hard-fought five-game series with Connecticut in the semifinals. After falling behind 2-1 and losing Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby to injury, the Aces rallied to win the final two games to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Finals since 2008 when the team still played in San Antonio.

This Finals loss will sting for a while, but it will also drive the Aces to continue to progress and improve heading into 2021. The Aces future still remains bright.

“I know it hurts. But end of the day you learn and grow from it,” Wilson said. “I know I grew from it. That’s a success in my book and I’m going to keep growing.”