SEATTLE >>Sue Bird scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Seattle Storm advanced to the WNBA Finals for the third time in franchise history rallying for a 94-84 win over the Phoenix Mercury in Game 5 tonight.
Playing with a broken nose suffered in Game 4 and wearing a protective mask, Bird struggled with her shot for the first three quarters, but got hot in the closing minutes. She knocked down three straight jumpers midway through the fourth quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers. After a contentious jump ball that left Bird screaming at officials begging for a foul, Bird added another 3 and pushed Seattle’s lead to 84-76 with 2:51 remaining.
Bird handed her friend and Phoenix star Diana Taurasi her first career loss in a winner-take-all game. Taurasi had been 13-0 in her career in those situations, but couldn’t overcome the longest tenured Storm player from going off in the fourth quarter.
League MVP Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 28 points and carried the scoring load through the first three quarters until Bird took over late. Alysha Clark added 13 points and Sami Whitcomb provided a spark with 11 off the bench.
MYSTICS 86, DREAM 81
ATLANTA >> The Mystics overcame a quiet night from Elena Delle Donne to earn a trip to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, holding off the Dream in the decisive fifth game of their semifinal series.
The Dream led 71-69 with just under 7 minutes remaining but suddenly went cold at the worst time of what had been a remarkable turnaround season. Washington seized the lead with a 9-0 run and survived a desperation 3-pointer by Tiffany Hayes, earning a spot in the Finals against either Seattle or Phoenix. Those teams were tipping off in their own Game 5 about the time the final horn sounded in Atlanta.
Delle Donne scored 14 points, far below the 24.7 she was averaging in the series despite missing Game 3 with a knee injury. Ariel Atkins led the way with 20, Kristi Toliver had 19 and Tianna Hawkins added 17.
Alex Bentley scored 16 points to lead five Atlanta players in double figures. But the Dream couldn’t overcome the loss of star Angel McCoughtry late in the season to a knee injury.