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ATLANTA (AP) — The Seattle Storm made a sweeping claim to be considered one of the top teams in WNBA history.
Even if the Atlanta Dream were difficult to convince.
Seattle, which matched the league record for regular-season wins, completed the WNBA's first undefeated postseason in eight years, beating the Dream 87-84 on Thursday night for a three-game sweep of the finals.
"I don't know if I'll ever be part of a team that's been as good or be at the end of a season and feel like I wish it would all start again because it's been so much fun," said Lauren Jackson, who swept the regular-season and WNBA finals MVP awards.
Atlanta, a third-year expansion franchise, was difficult to put away. The Storm won the three games by a total of eight points and won Game 3 only after the Dream missed two 3-pointers in the final 6 seconds.
The Storm became the first team to win the championship without a postseason loss since the Los Angeles Sparks went 6-0 in 2002, when the finals were a best-of-three series.
"I know we swept, but it was not easy at any point," said Seattle guard Sue Bird, who had 14 points and seven assists.
The Storm won the first two games in Seattle by a combined margin of five points and struggled at times against Atlanta's relentless defense in the decisive Game 3.
"They really made it difficult for us to have success in each game," said Seattle coach Brian Agler.
Atlanta stayed close, thanks to the dynamic scoring of second-year star Angel McCoughtry, who scored a finals-best 35 points. But the Dream couldn't match Seattle's leadership from Bird, Jackson and Swin Cash.
Seattle closed the third quarter with a 14-1 run and never trailed after that.
Bird and Jackson were the only remaining players from Seattle's first title in 2004.
After the win, Bird jumped into Jackson's arms and admitted that, after six years of waiting, this title was sweeter than the first.
"I'm going to be smiling for a long time," Bird said.
The championship comes after the Storm lost in the first round of the playoffs five straight years following their first title.
"I guess now I can be honest," Bird said. "Losing in the first round has been terrible. It's something I took personally and something a lot of us took personally. ... I judge myself by winning, so to not win in five years really, really hurt."
The Storm made up for the long gap between titles by dominating the 2010 season. Seattle was 28-6 during the regular season — tying the league record for wins — before sweeping each of its three postseason series.
Jackson, who had 26 points in each of the Storm's first two wins in the series, had 15 points and nine rebounds in Game 3.
McCoughtry, who set a WNBA playoff record with 42 points in the Eastern Conference finals clincher against the New York Liberty, tried to rally Atlanta with nine points in the final 2:30. But McCoughtry and Coco Miller missed 3-pointers in the final 6 seconds, setting off a celebration by Seattle's players.
The Dream rallied in the final minute after trailing 82-70.
McCoughtry's three-point play with 46 seconds remaining cut Seattle's lead to 85-80. Seattle's Tanisha Wright missed two free throws and McCoughtry was fouled by Cash while missing a 3. McCoughtry made two of three free throws to cut the lead to three with 31 seconds left.
"I felt like the game was slipping away," McCoughtry said. "I felt like I needed to do something about it.
"I wish I had made all three of those free throws. That might have made a difference."