WNBA playoffs 2022: Chelsea Gray powers Aces to WNBA Finals as Storm's Sue Bird heads into retirement
On the eve of the WNBA’s MVP announcement, it was only fitting that a collection of No. 1 overall picks played up to the moment as one of the league’s GOATs signed off.
The No. 1-seeded Las Vegas Aces came out of halftime on fire behind Chelsea Gray’s 31 points and 10 assists en route to a 97-92 win over the No. 4 Seattle Storm on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the semifinals at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The Aces advanced to the WNBA Finals, which start Sunday in Las Vegas. They await the winner of the Chicago Sky-Connecticut Sun series after the Sun forced a winner-take-all Game 5 at 8 p.m. ET Thursday in Chicago.
It also capped Seattle Storm stalwart Sue Bird’s career, as the legend announced this would be her final season. The crowd gave her an emotional send-off.
The Storm’s Breanna Stewart single-handedly tried to extend her teammate’s career as she put on a clinic in the first half, knocking down all five of her 3-point attempts and scoring 26 points. Stewart finished with 42 points, seven rebounds and went 6 of 8 from long distance. It was the fifth time in WNBA playoff history a player had 40-plus points.
Las Vegas held Seattle without a field goal for the first 5:19 of the second half and Gray’s big shots late grabbed control of the game for the Aces.
Sue Bird's legendary career ends
As the crowd chanted, "Thank you, Sue," Bird gave an emotional postgame interview on ESPN.
"It's sad," Bird told ESPN's Holly Rowe. "Obviously, so thankful for 20 years here. I'm gonna miss it so much. I'm not going anywhere, but I'm gonna miss it.
"I wish we could have done a little bit more to get to the Finals, but I'm so proud of this team, this year. I am so, so, so proud to be a member of the Seattle Storm. It has been my honor to play for this franchise, to play for these fans."
It's been an honor, @S10Bird 💚💛#ThankYouSue x #TheFinalFlight pic.twitter.com/uzHykbkUPS
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) September 7, 2022
Bird finished with eight points, eight assists and one steal in 36 minutes. After the game, she told reporters she didn't have second thoughts about her decision to retire after 19 seasons and 21 years in the league.
Bird wasn't the only Storm player to play her last game on Tuesday night. Briann January also announced this season would be her last after 12 seasons, including one WNBA title (2012, Indiana Fever).
How the Aces advanced to the WNBA Finals
Gray added another chapter to her "point gawd" heroics. She became the first player in WNBA history to score at least 30 points and have at least 10 assists in a postseason game.
She scored 12 of the Aces' final 20 points, willing them into the Finals after the Storm had led for much of the first half.
Here's two minutes of ridiculous shotmaking by Chelsea Gray in the semifinals. Just unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/JCWMj7FV4g
— Sean Hurd (@seanahurd) September 7, 2022
The Aces will compete in their third Finals in franchise history. They have never won a WNBA title.
WNBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Chicago/Connecticut at Las Vegas, 3 p.m. ET Sunday (ABC)
Game 2: Chicago/Connecticut at Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET Tuesday (ESPN)
Game 3: Las Vegas at Chicago/Connecticut, 9 p.m. ET Sept. 15 (ESPN)
Game 4: Las Vegas at Chicago/Connecticut, 4 p.m. ET Sept. 18 (ESPN)*
Game 5: Chicago/Connecticut at Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET Sept. 20 (ESPN)*
* — if necessary