The Seattle Storm are one game away from winning its third WNBA championship trophy as they prepare to play game three of the WNBA Finals against the Washington Mystics in Washington, D.C.
After taking both games in Seattle, including a close one in game two, the Storm want to make sure the Mystics don’t crawl back into the series like the Phoenix Mercury did against Seattle in the semifinals.
In that series, Seattle took the first two games only to have the Mercury win both in Phoenix sending the series back to Seattle for a game five elimination game.
The Storm played tough and got the win to make the Finals and they feel they learned from that experience which they’ll use to try and keep Washington from doing the same thing.
“I think we learned in the Phoenix series that whenever you go up 2-0, regardless of location, you understand that teams are going to be desperate,” said Storm Guard Sue Bird. “They’re going to play that way offensively. They’re going to play that way defensively. [The Mystics] being home helps that cause even more so.”
Bird added, “Hopefully we can use our experiences from that Game three in Phoenix and go from there. We understand that the difference here is that we have a chance to win a championship and not just advance to the next round so hopefully that can bring out a little more hunger in us. This is The Finals. Regardless of being up 2-0 or whatever these games are hard, no matter what. We’ve got to come ready and that’s going to be difficult.”
Difficult because despite being down by two games Washington still has the belief they can come back even after going 0-16 from the three point line which like Seattle is a part of their team’s character.
“We were just joking that the Houston Rockets missed a lot of threes in game seven and we have another chance in game three,” said Mystics guard Kristi Toliver. “Our season’s not over ending on a 0-16 three-point shooting night. We’ll be back. We’ve got a lot of great shooters and a lot of confidence. Granted, it’s a new building but shooters can shoot anywhere.”
Bad shooting days happen to teams more than they like it to and it’s something they have to know how to come back from.
When asked if she feels fortunate that the Mystics went 0-16, Bird was to the point.
“Yeah, and I feel unfortunate that we missed as many free throws as we missed,” said Bird. “That’s basketball. They go in and sometimes they don’t. I think it was Diana Taurasi that said it best as we were playing them that when it comes down to these games it’s about playing basketball and making plays and making shots.”
Bird added. “Do I think we did something defensively to cause that? I’m sure a little bit. Did they maybe miss some shots that they could’ve made? I’m sure, a little bit. You can go back and forth on that for days. I do know that I’m happy we won and that we did enough to win.”
For Toliver and the rest of the Washington team they know they can come back from a poor shooting performance and they know what it’s like having to face elimination in this playoff season.
After defeating the Connecticut Sun to win their second round one-game elimination playoff and then surviving their series against the Atlanta Dream by winning their fifth game in Atlanta, the Mystics know they can come back from the brink.
“I think we’re just a resilient group,” said Toliver. “We want to continue to play and obviously when you’re playing for a championship there’s a lot on the line. It’s when you’ve got to be at your best. When our backs are up against the wall we’re going to come out punching and hopefully do the right things and take it one game at a time.”
Seattle knows what Washington can do and they’ll be expecting the Mystics to “come out punching” and be ready to do their own damage for a championship.
“It’s going to be similar to game two,” said Storm forward and WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart. “They were desperate to come out and be different than game one because game one did not go the way they wanted it to. Just being prepared for their punches and punch them back, playing consistent for 40 minutes.”
Whether you’re in the stadium, watching from Ozzie’s at the official Storm watch party, or at home cheering them on from your couch, expect Game 3 to be epic.
No matter how the game ends, know that someone is going to be happy and someone is going to be sad. The only thing we don’t know is if the teams will be heading home for the off-season with those feelings or preparing for another Finals game.
“I think when you’ve got a team like we have where a lot of players are going through this experience [for the first time] … we’re not like LA and Minnesota where they’ve been here and had those experiences,” Bird said. “We have to learn from the experiences that we have. It’s been a common theme whether it was the end of the year or it was the playoffs, win or lose, we’re about learning things. We’re about gathering something from that experience that can be useful.”
It’s something they have learned before.
“We went through that in our first series,” Bird added. “You’re on the road and you have a team that’s ready to really accelerate and you’ve got to deal with it. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier, but at least you have the knowledge of it and it’s not a new experience that you’re just talking about. It’s one you’ve been in.”
For Washington guard Elena Delle Donne, Seattle has done what they’ve done all season and the Mystics have to do what they do to keep the series going.
“They’ve been a great team all season long,” said Delle Donne. “That’s why they had the No. 1 seed, that’s why they had home court [advantage]. They took care of home court. Now we’ve got to do the same.”
Both teams will fight to reach their goals in game three beginning at 5pm (PT) on Wednesday, September 12. The game will be played at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia and shown on ESPN2.
Virginia Lopez is reporting from Seattle, Washington.