Aja Wilson scored 29 points, Kelsey Bloom Added 16 including 3-key indicator in the last minute, and Las Vegas Aces He spoiled the final of the regular season at home for So Bird beating Seattle Storm 89-81 on Sunday.
The largest crowd in Storm history gathered at Climate Pledge to thank Bird for her two decades as the face of the franchise and one of the best women’s basketball players of all time.
But the pots weren’t ready to play their part in ensuring Bird’s victory in the end. Wilson dominated the first three quarters, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young each scored 15 goals and the Aces were never behind in the last 28 minutes.
Brenna Stewart finished with a season-high 35 points and Tina Charles added 19. Bird finished with nine points, six assists and four rebounds, but the score looked a lot like the first game she played in Seattle 20 years ago—a defeat.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s annoying to lose my last match. But you know what, I lost my first match too. So it’s okay,” Bird joked with the crowd after the last bell.
The result was important and not at the same time. Both Seattle and Las Vegas were vying for a place in the playoffs, and for Stormtroopers, the loss was a blow to their chances of gaining a home advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. The Aces maintained their hopes of catching up with Chicago for the top seed last week.
But the position of the match was completely secondary to the focus of the day.
Bird is the WNBA record holder for assists and matches played. When this season ends, Bird will retire with at least five Olympic gold medals and four WNBA titles, matching the two championships she won at UConn.
“Being good for a very long time,” said Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon, who was opposed to the Birds in their first NBA game on May 30, 2002. It’s been amazing for decades which is great for me.”
Bird wasn’t sure how she would feel before the match when all the festivities were going on. She looked surprised as she left the locker room to take the pitch for the pre-match warm-up, and her family lined up in the lobby with fiancé Megan Rapinoe, who was last in the receiving line.
A tidal wave appeared to hit her during a video tribute before receiving information that included messages from Rapinoe, LeBron James, Russell Wilson, Chloe Kim, Lauren Jackson, Byrd College coach Gno Orima and raucous cheers from 18,100 people, the largest crowd ever at a main Storm game.
“We all know you’re not going away,” Orima said. “I’m looking forward to what your next work is.”
For now, the next Bird movie is trying to make sure Storm runs again on their home grounds. Seattle is currently fourth in the standings and with the new WNBA format, Seattle will end up hosting the first two games of the opening round series in the playoffs if they can hold onto that spot.
Seattle was without coach Noel Quinn after she tested positive for COVID-19 and was in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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