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 on Tuesday night.
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.
"I don't know, law of averages? At some point it has to happen," Bird said of Taurasi's streak ending. "This game wasn't anything more than two teams battling it out and one coming out on top."
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.
Seattle will face the Washington Mystics in the finals. Game 1 is Friday in Seattle.
"It's been a great run. When the season started I wasn't sure what was going to happen and now we're in the Finals," Bird said.
Taurasi finished with 17 points, but the Mercury were unable to overcome losing the first two games of the series in Seattle. Brittney Griner led Phoenix with 21 points but had just three in the fourth quarter. Yvonne Turner matched her career high with 19 points, but was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Seattle outscored Phoenix 35-21 in the fourth quarter.
It looked good for Phoenix early, jumping to a 10-point lead in the opening minutes and leading by 11 points midway through the second quarter. But Seattle chipped away, pulled even late in the third quarter and eventually taking its first lead on Jordin Canada's 3-pointer with 8:20 remaining to go ahead 66-63.
That's when Stewart and Bird took over, combining to score the next 18 points for Seattle, 11 of those by Bird, as part of an 18-6 run to take control.
Among the Seattle basketball luminaries in attendance were Nate Robinson, Slick Watts and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens. ... Whitcomb had scored in double figures only two times in the regular season. ... Phoenix was 8 of 28 on 3-pointers but four of those came in the first 4 minutes of the game. ... Seattle outscored Phoenix 18-2 in bench points.
Bird didn't think there would be major issue playing with the broken nose having done it four times previous in her career, and three previous times during the WNBA season. Bird is now 20-15 overall and 6-5 in the playoffs wearing a protective mask.
Seattle went 2-1 against the Mystics during the regular season, winning a pair of close games at home but getting routed 100-77 in Washington late in the season.