What led to Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, a 98-82 series-ending loss for the Mystics to the Seattle Storm and the first ever WNBA Finals game held in the D.C. area, was a rapid ascension following the 2016 season, a rebuild that by all accounts has culminated faster than anyone could have predicted.
Stewart had 30 points, and Howard, who had been a bit player in Minnesota last year when the Lynx won the title, was a monumental contributor all year in Seattle after her acquisition in a trade.
Natasha Howard added a career-high 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Storm.
But the Mystics couldn't get any closer, as Finals MVP Breanna Stewart's three-point play on the ensuing possession ignited an 8-0 Seattle run that pushed the deficit back to double digits. And of course, Atkins emerged as one of the best rookies in a strong 2018 draft class, showcasing her ability as both a tenacious defender and viable offensive threat behind Delle Donne and Toliver. "[Turnovers have] just stopped us from getting into the flow we want to get into".
Stewart wouldn't allow this series to extend past Game 3, she was eager to get the champagne popping. We knew what to do and how to get better.
As for the Washington Mystics, this unbelievable season comes to an end.
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The Storm were WNBA champions in 2004 and again in 2010. This team made a lot of great strides from last year to this year. "I am really happy for her".
The next wave of WNBA stars will be led by Stewart a product of a UConn Huskies machine that brings a culture of leadership, teamwork, talent, championship pedigree and visibility to the WNBA game. The Mystics trailed by as many as 18 in the third quarter but clawed within five on a Tierra Ruffin-Pratt 3-pointer with 6:49 left, with Delle Donne scoring or assisting on each basket during an 11-1 run.
Then he watched them turn into the best team in the league during the season, and validate that status in the postseason.
This is likely just the beginning for the dynamic 24-year-old forward, who won the NCAA Championship during each of her four seasons at the University of CT. "It's a shame we couldn't give them one more home game but I feel good about this team going forward and we're a full year ahead of schedule", Coach Thibault said proudly.
Lost in all of that Game 5 commotion was Stewart's strong performance, something that Bird said happens too often. In addition to setting the franchise single-season record for points (742) and field goals (270), Stewart broke her own single-season franchise record for 20-plus point games, boasting 22 on the year. It's when people say things like, 'There's no basketball in Seattle anymore.' Or, like, 'We need pro basketball back in Seattle.' They're talking about how the Sonics are gone.
"We can really create something here, and I think we've really grown this fan base", said Delle Donne.