Storm beats San Antonio again despite Sue Bird's absence
Seattle's star guard sits out with back problems, but Storm wins 86-72
Seattle Times staff reporter
Storm @ Los Angeles, 2 p.m., ESPN2
OK, that's a bit harsh. But the way the Storm continues to fill in for its injured point guard, it makes you briefly forget Sue Bird is missing from the lineup.
Bird missed Tuesday's matchup with an injured back and Seattle still defeated San Antonio 86-72 at KeyArena. Teammate Lauren Jackson simply teamed with Tanisha Wright to put on a show before 7,823 fans as Seattle won its ninth consecutive home game.
"I was a bit worried before the game without Sue, but Tanisha was unbelievable and I'm just so proud of her," said Jackson, whose team has the fifth best start in the WNBA's 14-year history.
Bird, whose team is 7-7 for her WNBA career without her in the lineup, did dress for the game but didn't play. Svetlana Abrosimova replaced her in the lineup but for the second consecutive game, Wright predominantly handled running the offense.
"We've had a focus all year defensively to get things done and that's where it's at," said Wright of the collective characteristic that transcends who plays. "Everybody is looking like, 'Oh, you had so many assists!' But it's really easy when you have a Lauren on the floor who catches everything or she comes off the screen and knocks it down, or Svetty knocking it down. A lot of it is just them, it's not really me."
Jackson led all scorers with 31 points and 15 boards, while Wright had her second consecutive double-double with 11 points with a career-high 12 assists.
Becky Hammon led the Silver Stars, who trailed 36-27 at the break courtesy of Storm reserve Le'coe Willingham's three-pointer at the buzzer, with 24 points.
"They kicked our butt," said Hammon, whose team was outscored 48-28 inside. "Svetlana ran some (point) and Tanisha ran some, but when it all comes down to it, they're all looking for Lauren. So, it doesn't matter who's out there, they're all looking for Lauren."
Bird, 29, suffered back spasms — in the area between her L-5 and L-4 vertebrae — before Sunday's game in Tulsa and removed herself two minutes into the game.
She had the area evaluated by a back specialist on Monday and decided not to play on Tuesday as a precautionary measure. The league's runner-up in assists (5.7), Bird hopes to return for Saturday's game in Los Angeles.
"If all goes well and I have to miss one game to feel great the rest of the year, that's kind of the decision you have to make," said Bird, who added she wouldn't have played if Tuesday were a playoff game, either. "I had conversations with other players in the league like Becky and I remember she took a couple games off.
"Her exact words were, 'Rather than be a mess all year, let me take care of it and be OK.' That's where it's at, and I totally have trust in the team that they're going to take care of business regardless."
Having beaten San Antonio (5-8) by an average of 24.5 points in two previous games with Bird, the Storm (14-2) again kept the Silver Stars from grabbing offensive rebounds and jumped to a 14-4 lead with 2:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
The most entertaining quarter, however, was probably Jackson's duel with Hammon in the third. The latter continued draining three three-pointers and Jackson was 5 of 6 from the field.
But Seattle led 69-56 when Wright nailed a three-pointer with six-tenths of a second left in the quarter.
"We gave it a shot, but they're just tough to beat," said Silver Stars forward Chamique Holdsclaw.
• Bird was the top vote-getter for the "Stars at the Sun" midsummer classic the WNBA is hosting July 10. Swin Cash and Jackson also were among the top 10 who were guaranteed starting spots at the game, pitting the USA national team against WNBA All-Stars. The national team will be named Thursday, and the remaining WNBA starters on Sunday.
Storm 86, Silver Stars 72
|San Antonio||8||19||29||16 — 72|
|Seattle||14||22||33||17 — 86|
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