(Bradenton, FL) Your Seattle Storm are the 2020 WNBA Champions!!!! Boy does that feel good to write. In what will go down as the most unique and challenging WNBA season in the history of the league, the Seattle Storm stand tall as the best team in the world after sweeping the Las Vegas Aces 3-0. The Storm left no doubt with a 92-59 beatdown of the top-seeded Aces.
Seattle was simply too good, too talented, too experienced, and too determined to do anything but leave the WNBA Wubble with the franchise’s 4th WNBA Championship.
They were projected to be the champions at the start of the season, but that’s so much easier said than done. A lot of things have to go right for a team to win a single championship, much less four of them. But that’s what Seattle has now accomplished.
The Seattle Storm have climbed back to the mountain top in 2020 after devastating injuries took Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird out of the 2019 season. The 2019 team never got to truly defend their championship with their complete team, but they got that opportunity in 2020 and wow did they deliver!
The 2020 Seattle Storm finished 18-4 in the regular season (82% win percentage) and went 6-0 in the WNBA Playoffs sweeping away the Minnesota Lynx and Las Vegas Aces. This squad will likely match the 2010 team as the greatest Seattle Storm team in franchise history.
Breanna Stewart, returning from her torn Achilles injury, was named the WNBA Finals MVP for the second time in her career. Stewart averaged 28.3 PPG and 8 RPG over the three games. Stewart has now won two WNBA titles in back to back seasons that she has played in (2018, 2020). She is famously known for winning four NCAA National Championships at UConn between 2013-2016. Stewart has now won championships in 6 of the last 8 years that she has played basketball. That is beyond incredible. Stewart is in the process of becoming an All-Time great!
Ageless wonder, Sue Bird, has now won her 4th WNBA Championship in three separate decades (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020). She is the only WNBA player that can make that claim and only the third player in NBA/WNBA history joining Tim Duncan and John Salley. She also broke her own record for being the WNBA player to have the largest gap in between her first and most recent championship. She previously held the record at 14 years between 2004 and 2018. She now holds the new record at 16 years between 2004 and 2020. Bird is the most successful Seattle Sports athlete of all time carrying an 11-1 record in the WNBA Finals to go along with her four titles.
And the best part of it is that Sue Bird is still playing at an elite level. Yes, there are more injuries, and maybe that’s a topic for another article down the road. But Bird set a new WNBA playoff record and her own personal best in the 17th year of her career by tossing out 16 assists in Game 1 of the Finals. She followed that up with an impressive double-double of 16 points and 10 assists in Game 2. Bird finished Game 3 with a game-high seven assists which set another record (33 assists total in a Finals) because of course, she did! She’s Sue FREAKING Bird.
But the beauty of this Storm team is that it’s not all about Breanna Stewart or Sue Bird. Jewell Loyd was extremely special in these playoffs, playing the best basketball of her career. She scored 28 points in Game 1 and 19 points in the deciding Game 3. Loyd also led the team in rebounding with nine and added four assists. Loyd’s ability to knock down clutch shots and drive to the basket aggressively were critical in Seattle claiming the franchise’s 4th title.
Loyd gave an emotional interview after the game, dedicating this championship to Kobe Bryant, Gigi Bryant, and Breonna Taylor.
Alysha Clark was huge in this series, having to guard Angel McCoughtry and Kayla McBride throughout the entire series; the Aces two best perimeter players. Clark scored 21 points in Game 2 knocking down several key shots that were critical to the Storm’s 2nd victory in the series. She also scored 10 points in Game 3 and actually outscored Angel McCoughtry in Games 2 and 3 of the Finals. Not exactly something many of us would have predicted, but Clark more than carried her weight in these Finals.
Jordin Canada was the fourth Storm player to score in double figures in Game 3, having her best game of the series with 15 points on a very efficient 7-12 (58%) from the floor. Canada also came up big in Game 2 scoring eight of her ten points in the 4th quarter that helped push Seattle’s lead to double digits.
And something that will be underappreciated was the incredible defense that Mercedes Russell helped play on A’ja Wilson throughout the Finals. Russell at 6’ 6” is big, strong, and physical and did a very good job of limiting Wilson’s ability to get deep into the low post. She forced Wilson into taking a lot of tough contested midrange jumpers with a hand in her face. I’m not sure if Mercedes will ever get the credit she deserves, but it was super important for me to bring it up to you guys because a box score rarely tells everything about a basketball game. Russell’s stats won’t stand out as one of the best players on the team. She scored six points and had five rebounds in Game 3. But her ability to defend Wilson, with the help of her teammates may have been the biggest factor in the Storm sweeping the Las Vegas Aces.
The Las Vegas Aces really struggled in this final game of the season. Maybe it was the fact that they had to play the Connecticut Sun in a grueling five-game series. Maybe it’s because they had to face an uptempo Seattle Storm team three times in five days. Whatever it was, they looked terrible in this game after the first quarter. Once their shots stopped falling they fell apart.
No surprise, A’ja Wilson was the Aces’ best player in this game. But once against Breanna Stewart outplayed her. Wilson finished with 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists. However, Wilson also started the first quarter scorching hot scoring 14 of her 18 points in the game. She only scored four points over the final 22 minutes she played.
Angel McCoughtry’s record in the WNBA Finals is now 0-12 after she was swept in the championship round for the 4th time in her illustrious career. McCoughtry finished this game with just seven points on 2-7 FG shooting. She also got into early foul trouble in the 2nd half that limited her minutes.
The only other Aces player to score in double figures was Jackie Young. Young scored 11 points but achieved that through a terrible shooting performance, 3-12 (25%) field goal shooting. Young also had three turnovers.
Turnovers were a big topic for the Aces all series long. Seattle’s defense flustered them and I think their inexperience hurt them. Lindsay Allen had so many turnovers in the 2nd quarter of this game I was starting to think she had money on the Storm to sweep. Allen committed four turnovers in the 2nd period and five total in the game. The Aces finished the game with 19 turnovers compared to just 8 for Seattle.
Seattle outshot Las Vegas 48% (38-80) to 34% (22-64). The Storm’s excellent defense prevented Las Vegas from getting easy shots. The Storm were constantly sending two people at A’ja Wilson, rotating and getting their hands up, and collapsing the paint anytime any of the Vegas play
ers attempted to penetrate.
Not shocking, the Aces got 18 free throw attempts in this game, knocking down 12 of them. While Seattle went 9-12 from the foul line. Vegas only attempted five three-pointers in the game knocking down two of them. The Storm weren’t great from long range in this game going 7-26 (27%). But a lot of those misses came in the 4th quarter where they shot 1-10 while Crystal Langhorne and Morgan Tuck were launching up threes at the end of the game with Seattle up 30+ points. Through three quarters, Seattle shot 6-16 (38%) from deep.
The Aces scored three more points than Seattle at the free throw line, while the Storm scored 15 more points than Vegas from the three-point line. That’s a WIN for the analytics people out there.
Bill Laimbeer’s strategy of relying on free throws and not having good shooters didn’t really work out for him like it did in the regular season. Once the Aces were matched up with a veteran team, who was excellent defensively and stayed disciplined most of the time, Las Vegas really got into some trouble.
Seattle won Game 1 by 13 points, Game 2 by 13 points, and Game 3 by 33 points. The Las Vegas Aces did not provide the challenge to the 2020 WNBA Champions that many predicted they would.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this recap and want to read even more, consider checking out the Complete Edition that includes tons of interviews from Storm Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Alysha Clark, as well as quarter by quarter breakdowns and more!