CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
Seattle point guard Sue Bird had a career-high 16 assists, setting both a WNBA Finals and overall playoff record, in Friday’s 93-80 victory over the Las Vegas Aces in the series’ opening game in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida.
Bird broke the WNBA Finals record with her 12th assist in the third quarter. Bird had 10 assists in the first half, after which the Storm led 57-40. Bird, appearing in her fourth WNBA Finals, played in her 51st playoff game Friday in a career dating to 2002.
“She really did a good job finding the open person and we shot the ball really well,” Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Just a tremendous floor game for Sue.”
This season, Bird averaged 5.2 assists but was limited to 11 of 22 regular-season games as she dealt with a knee injury. Bird did not play in either of the Storm’s regular-season games against Las Vegas, both losses. She averaged 7.3 assists in the Storm’s three semifinal games against Minnesota.
Bird, 39, is the WNBA all-time assists leader, with 2,888 regular-season assists. Her previous career high in assists was 14, which she had both in the regular season and the playoffs. Fourteen was the previous playoff record, which both Bird and Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot reached.