Thirteen seems to be the Seattle Storm’s lucky number as they maintained control of the best-of-five WNBA Finals with a 104–91 victory over the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday afternoon.
With only one game standing between the Storm and a fourth franchise championship, the Aces will be looking to do anything and everything to keep their title hopes alive.
Seattle’s team spirit
In Game 1, Sue Bird set a WNBA Finals record for assists in a game with 16. The Storm followed Bird’s lead in Game 2 by setting another WNBA Finals record — 33 assists as a team.
Ten of those assists came from Bird, who added 16 points to become the only player to record a double-double for the team.
Through Bird’s court vision, she was able to set up four of her Storm teammates to score in double digits as well.
The Storm have now scored at least 88 points in all of their playoff games this season and have outscored the Aces by 26 points in two games.
The Storm’s two-way play
Players like Bird and Breanna Stewart will continually garner praise for the Storm, as they should, but one of the key weapons to the team’s elite play has been their well-rounded roster. The roster boasts several players who can go off for big nights on either end of the floor.
Take small forward Alysha Clark, who has now led the WNBA in three-point shooting in back-to-back seasons while also being unanimously named to the all-defensive team this season.
Or, looking specifically at Game 2 again, centre Natasha Howard, who came up big for the Storm on Sunday, leading the team with eight rebounds and scoring 21 points of her own.
Including Stewart’s game-high 22 points, three different Storm starters scored over 20 points and combined for 64 of their 104.
A late signing pays off for Vegas
Though the result of Game 2 wasn’t what the Aces were hoping for, they did see some ways that can improve heading into a do-or-die Game 3.
One key takeaway was the use of forward Emma Cannon, a free agent who signed with the Aces for the rest of the season on Sept. 9. Cannon had scored just four points in a total of four games prior to Game 2, but was thrust into a larger role with Las Vegas forward and 2020 Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby still out.
Cannon ably filled the gap with a 17-point, five-rebound performance, finishing third on the team in scoring behind star duo A’ja Wilson and Angel McCoughtry.
The Aces’ Core Four
There’s been only one game in the playoffs in which Wilson and McCoughtry haven’t combined for over 34 points, and only two games in which Kayla McBride hasn’t scored in double digits.
Danielle Robinson has also become a core member of the Aces’ success during these playoffs, helping drive the offence while averaging 4.7 rebounds per game during the post-season, the highest of her career.
Meanwhile, players like Carolyn Swords and Jackie Young have been valuable in their contributions on both offence and defence, albeit a bit inconsistently.
With the loss of Hamby only compounding the effects of already being without Kelsey Plum and Liz Cambage, the Aces have utilized many players who traditionally wouldn’t see many minutes on the court — and said players have delivered.