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This weekend, Seattle sports belong to the women

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The Storm return to the WNBA Finals and the Reign face off against their rivals in a game with big playoff implications.

Seattle Storm v Phoenix Mercury - Game Three Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, in one of the most intense, epic, back-and-forth games in WNBA history, Sue Bird solidified her status as a Seattle sports legend — scoring 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Storm came from behind to clinch a WNBA Finals berth for the first time in eight years.

Wearing a face mask to protect her nose, which was accidentally broken by the elbow of teammate Breanna Stewart just 48 hours prior, Bird had gone 0-for-8 shooting in the second and third quarters. That’s the beauty of sport — it doesn’t matter what you did earlier in the game, it matters how you close it out.

Going up against another legend — all-time WNBA leading scorer Diana Taurasi, who was 13-0 in Game 5 scenarios — it was Bird whose name would be exclaimed as the final seconds ticked down.

As Shea Serrano said in his Ringer story, “Game 5 was all of the things you want a series-ending contest to be: tense, dramatic, competitive, fat with moments of mastery on both sides of the ball, and fatter still with a clear and obvious moment of transcendence on one side of the ball. Sue Bird was the arbiter of that transcendence. And now the Storm are going to the Finals.”

And what a Finals this could be. Kicking off Friday at Key Arena, Seattle faces the Washington Mystics, who earned their first-ever trip to the WNBA Finals — powered by the gritty play of an injured Elena Delle Donne.

Let it be known that this Seattle Storm team isn’t just the Sue Bird show, despite her performance last night. Breanna Stewart was the league MVP this season and willed her team through the semifinals. Natasha Howard is the athletic post player the Storm have needed these last few seasons. Jewell Loyd is virtually unstoppable when she’s feeling it. Alysha Clark is the team’s best defender and plays with nothing but hustle. Rotational players Jordin Canada and Sami Whitcomb have both come up huge in different games over the five-game semifinal stretch. And Crystal Langhorne and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis have a knack for scoring exactly when the team needs it most.

As these players step onto the court Friday evening — likely in front of a home sellout crowd — another group of Seattle stars will be playing in an important match of their own.

Seattle Reign FC close out the regular season on Friday evening with a Cascadia battle on the road against the Portland Thorns. That game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. PT and will air on Lifetime. It might also be close to a sellout crowd, but these cheers won’t be in Seattle’s favor. Both teams have already clinched a playoff spot, but this particular match will determine who hosts a semifinal. A win or a draw will ensure Seattle plays its semi at Memorial Stadium on September 15. A loss means Reign FC will have to travel down I-5 once again to face Portland at Providence Park.

Memorial Stadium has been a fortress for the last five years, an imposing menace for opposing teams to overcome. The narrow field, unpredictable turf, and booming echo created by cheering fans and thick concrete walls gives Seattle a huge advantage any time they step onto the pitch. While the team has already won once in Portland this year — a thrilling 3-2 affair —they would still much rather play their first playoff match in front of their home fans.

While Megan Rapinoe, who loves to score goals against Portland, is likely unavailable for Friday’s match due to a fractured rib, Seattle could see the return of Rumi Utsugi, Allie Long, and Bev Yanez, all players recovering from injury stretches.

And just like the Storm, Reign FC is not simply the Megan Rapinoe show. This team has plenty of players who can close out a game and solidify their own Legend status. Utsugi did just that in Seattle’s win earlier this season at Portland.

This weekend, Seattle sports belong to the women. It’s bound to be a good show.

How to Watch

Seattle Reign v. Portland Thorns

When: Friday, September 7, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where: Providence Park, Portland
TV: Lifetime
Streaming: MyLifetime.com, Lifetime app, NWSLSoccer.com (international)

Seattle Storm v. Washington Mystics

When: Friday, September 7, 6:00 p.m. PT
Where: Key Arena, Seattle
TV: ESPN News
Streaming: WatchESPN.com

When: Sunday, September 9, 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Key Arena, Seattle
TV: ABC
Streaming: WatchESPN.com