SEATTLE -- In her final postseason, Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird at age 41 became the oldest player in WNBA history to record a playoff double-double with 18 points and 10 assists Sunday in the 97-84 victory to sweep the Washington Mystics. Both totals were high marks this season for Bird.
"Vintage Sue," Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. "There's something about these moments that makes me understand why she's so great. You see her just kick a different gear mentally and physically."
Bird already had held the record as the oldest WNBA player with a double-double in the postseason, having done so at 39 during the Storm's 2020 WNBA Finals win over the Las Vegas Aces. According to stathead.com, just three NBA players have had a playoff double-double in their 40s: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the only player to do it at an older age than Bird), Karl Malone and John Stockton.
After recording two assists Thursday in the narrow 86-83 Game 1 victory, when she frequently played off the ball, Bird had one in the first quarter Sunday while scoring nine points -- her most in an opening period this season. Quinn encouraged that aggressiveness from Bird.
"We know that she can facilitate, that's always going to happen," Quinn said, "but the points need to come early and often for her."
To Bird, that was a product of how she was being defended.
"This was a team that if they weren't switching pick-and-rolls when I was in them -- mostly when Stewie [Breanna Stewart] was setting them -- they were going under," Bird explained. "You have to be aggressive in those moments. You have to look for your shot. You have to make them pay. Not overdo it -- I think there's a balance there -- but you definitely have to do it."
From the second quarter onward, Bird's playmaking took center stage. She handed out seven assists in the second and third periods combined. The 10th assist for Bird came on a drop-off to Tina Charles in the paint with 2:17 remaining that pushed Seattle's lead to 11 points. Washington would never seriously threaten the rest of the game.
With the win, the Storm advance to the semifinals for the third time since 2018. The previous two trips resulted in championships in 2018 and 2020. In fact, Seattle is unbeaten in the semifinals and WNBA Finals during Bird's career, winning titles all four times the team has advanced that far.
The Storm will face the Las Vegas Aces, who completed a sweep over the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday, in a rematch of Seattle's 2020 Finals sweep. Reaching the semifinals assures Bird at least one more game in front of home fans at Climate Pledge Arena before her retirement at season's end.
"I only have so many games left," Bird said. "What today's win did was obviously push us into the semifinals. It also guaranteed us more home games. That was definitely in the back of my mind as I entered today. It wasn't some overwhelming motivator, just kind of a thought I had as I entered."
Bird and her teammates also had another unlikely source of motivation Sunday: the Delta app, which was providing notifications of the Storm's scheduled flight to Washington, D.C., on Monday ahead of a potential deciding Game 3 hosted by the Mystics.
"It was really reminding us of what's at stake," Bird joked. "No, I do not want to check a bag!"
With the win, that flight was canceled and Seattle will get to spend the week at home preparing for the semifinals.
"Now we have all this rest," Bird said, "we have all this time to prepare knowing Vegas had already advanced, so they were definitely going to get that rest and that time. Being able to stay home and not have to travel across the country is huge."