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The Mystics, who are making their first trip to the WNBA Finals, and the Storm head into Game 1 of the best-of-five series on Friday night.

By Associated Press
September 07, 2018

Kristi Toliver speaks from experience.

The guard is the only member of the Washington Mystics to have won a WNBA title, having done so with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

So the Mystics, who are making their first trip to the WNBA Finals, might want to heed her advice as they head into Game 1 of the best-of-five series on Friday night in Seattle.

"Don't make the moment bigger than what it is," Toliver told The Washington Post. "Enjoy each moment but be confident in yourself and be confident in who we are as a team. I think belief is such a huge thing, especially going into a Finals situation. You have to trust and believe that you're capable of winning it, and I think that we are."

The Mystics and Storm each gutted out Game 5 victories in the semifinals.

Washington defeated Atlanta 86-81 with star Elena Delle Donne wearing a large brace on her left knee after suffering a bone bruise late in Game 2 and missing Game 3. Those were the only two games the Mystics lost in the series.

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Rookie Ariel Atkins scored 20 points, Toliver added 19, Tianna Hawkins came off the bench to score 17 and Delle Donne had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the clincher.

Seattle outlasted Phoenix 94-84, as point guard Sue Bird scored 14 points of her season-high 22 points in the final six minutes of the finale. Bird was playing with a face mask because of a broken nose suffered late in the first half of Game 4 after running into an inadvertent elbow from teammate Breanna Stewart, the league's MVP this season.

Stewart scored 28 points, Alysha Clark added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and reserve Sami Whitcomb scored 11 for Seattle.

It will be the Storm's third trip to the finals, after having won titles in 2004 and 2010. Bird was a member of both of those teams.

"It means a lot," Bird, the league's oldest player at 37, told The Seattle Times. "Your first time around, you kind of feel like ... yeah, this is great. I'm 23, I'm probably going to be here all the time. This is great, I'm going to be here every year. And then I didn't get back for six years.

"And then six years later, I think OK, we need to capitalize on this situation and we did. Here we are eight years later and I didn't think I'd ever be back, to be honest. ... We started a rebuild and there was no telling what. But the Finals? That was very far from my imagination. To be here now is probably sweeter than the other two."

Seattle took the season series against Washington 2-1, with each team winning on its home court.

"The Finals bring out the best in people," Toliver told The Post. "We have a lot of good people. They have a lot of good people. I think you can tell by the way the regular season went that we match up pretty well with them, and they match up pretty well with us, so I'm excited about it.

"I'm excited to face Sue, Stewie and Jewell (Loyd), friends and great competitors."

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