The answer came almost four months later with a championship.
What led to Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, a 98-82 series-ending loss for the Mystics to the Seattle Storm and the first ever WNBA Finals game held in the D.C. area, was a rapid ascension following the 2016 season, a rebuild that by all accounts has culminated faster than anyone could have predicted. Howard capped her breakout season with 29 points (on 11 of 14 shooting) with a game-high 14 rebounds. We stayed laser (focused) through the whole season nonstop. The Storm entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and swept the finals. Seattle ended up losing that game by 2 points, and in an essay for The Players' Tribune Bird said that she was proud of the team because they proved they could do it without her - something she's been pushing them to realize all season. Stewart drained all four of her three-point attempts in the first half to build Seattle's insurmountable lead.
Dan Hughes, 63, was lured out of retirement before the season to coach the Storm.
But it was also a coming out party for Stewart, the league MVP, who delivered time and again. She truly was the MVP of these Finals. "I think anyone in coaching, we always think there is a little more we can do".
The 2018 WNBA title was the third in the Storm's history and first in Stewart's career.
"Each (championship) is special in its own way, but this one is probably going to have a different meaning for me", said 37-year-old point guard Bird. I didn't know if I'd be playing at this point. There is no doubt in the back of my mind that the Washington Mystics will be back next year contending for a championship and now that rookies like Ariel Atkins have playoff experience, the Mystics now know what it takes to get back to the promise land.
"I have seen her with the national team this last Olympics", Team USA assistant coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. "We have seen so much growth in our fanbase in the last two years", Delle Donne said.
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Mystics star and former league MVP Elena Delle Donne led Washington with 23 points, shooting 9-of-18 from the field.
"We're here in front of our home crowd and we're fighting", Mystics guard Kristi Toliver said. If we win a championship this week, that will be great. "We don't feel like we peaked and this is it for us", Delle Donne said.
"Honestly, it didn't feel like my first WNBA Finals closeout".
No wonder players and coaches were exhausted after pulling an all-nighter, celebrating at a nearby restaurant after finishing off a sweep of the Washington Mystics just outside the nation's capital. "What she did this year was ahead of schedule for us".
"I'm going to need a lot tonight", Toliver replied. That's a pretty important thing to know about Panda. "Now I can go to the bar, order her everything she needs".
Up 2-0 against the Mercury in the WNBA semifinals, Seattle had the chance to clinch the series on the road.
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