"It didn't feel like my first WNBA finals closeout game", the poised Stewart said.
Stewart led the Storm on Wednesday night, finishing the game with 30 points - shooting 11-of-22 from the field - and eight rebounds. "It's probably going to get a little harder from here to be honest, but I think she's ready for it". The great thing is we can still improve. Bird hopes that the elevated stakes Wednesday can motivate the Storm to avoid any complacency they might've experienced in Phoenix.
The answer came almost four months later with a championship.
The top five markets were: Seattle-Tacoma (3.6), Hartford & New Haven (1.7), Washington, DC (1.2), New Orleans (0.9), Memphis (0.9).
Seattle, already sacred in 2004 and 2010, is the successor to Minnesota, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Sparks, which are themselves fallen in the next round to face Washington.
But the Storm expect a battle, and as the Mercury taught them, teams down two games have nothing to lose. Natasha Howard, the best player on the court on Wednesday, added a put-back, and Sami Whitcomb came off the bench to drain a three-pointer. The Mystics were 0-for-16 on 3-pointers in a 75-73 loss in Seattle in Game 2.
And while it will be a much smaller building than they've been used to for years, it will be much more like the ones they've played in the last couple weeks.
Bird added that Seattle must limit turnovers. The Storm entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and swept the finals. That's what you're supposed to do when your basketball team falls short of winning a title - try to create a more super super-team. But we can't take our foot off the pedal.
Stewart and Bird have had each had a remarkable year, culminating in a magical end to the season that's been years in the making for their franchise. The Storm know they won't be able to completely neutralize Washington's star tandem, which is averaging a combined 23.5 points in the best-of-five series, but Seattle must look to limit their touches and attempts.
"And I didn't know if I would be back to the Finals ever again".
The sellout crowd of 9,164 at EagleBank Arena screamed: "De-fense, De-fense", one last rally cry for a Washington Mystics facing elimination for the fourth time this season. It was a convincing 98-82 win for Seattle to capture the franchise's third championship in history. If nothing else, it reminded players of what's on the line.
"Just knowing that Game 3 was so important; obviously playing on the road is tough, but we knew we could close out this series and we wanted to do it today", Stewart said. "We want to bring the trophy back to Seattle from this game".