Bird's three-pointer sends Storm to WNBA Finals
The Storm used a 15-0 run in the final 3 minutes to beat the Phoenix Mercury 91-88 on Sunday, finishing the best-of-three Western Conference finals in Game 2 at US Airways Center.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PHOENIX — There was doubt.
The Storm players wouldn't be human if they hadn't looked up at the scoreboard, seen a 19-point deficit beaming back and wondered: Can we possibly come back again? Is this Western Conference finals game against the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury where the second-half magic fades?
Not a chance.
On Sunday, the Storm froze the Mercury with its signature defense, going on a 15-0 run in the final 3 minutes to win 91-88, finishing the best-of-three series in Game 2 at US Airways Center. Sue Bird was the superhero, nailing the game-winning three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.
Phoenix's Diana Taurasi tried to counter, but missed a three-point attempt with Seattle forward Swin Cash in her face. Teammate Camille Little secured the rebound, and Seattle was on its way to its first WNBA Finals since winning the title in 2004.
"We had no answer for them for a long time there," said Bird, whose team is 14-6 this season when trailing after three quarters. "Everyone on the bench kept talking, though. We might be tired, but we had to push that aside. We had to find energy from somewhere, and it was the experience of the regular season — we knew we could do it. When we were down 12, we said, 'Guys, it's a couple of possessions, that's it.' "
Those possessions were pure artistry.
Taurasi hit what would be the Mercury's last shot, a running three-pointer, putting Phoenix ahead 88-76 with 3:21 remaining in the game. She spread her arms wide as the adoring crowd of 9,010 roared.
"I was like, 'This couldn't possibly get any worse,' " Storm star Lauren Jackson said.
It didn't. Seattle went to work on defense, forcing Taurasi, center Tangela Smith, forward Candice Dupree and guard Temeka Johnson all to miss shots. Underneath the hoop, Little and Cash grabbed critical rebounds.
Offensively, Seattle became a collective force. Jackson, who had four fouls and was 4-for-10 from the field through three quarters, pushed her way into the paint to score. Cash was the leader, scoring 12 of her team-high 23 points in the final quarter. The grittiest basket was a layin off a baseline feed from Bird to tie the score at 88 with 31.8 seconds on the clock.
The Storm players just smiled as they went to the bench during a timeout called by Phoenix, slapping high-fives with teammates.
"I was really proud," said Cash, who also had five rebounds, two assists, and one steal in the quarter. "We made them take tough shots, and then we were able to get the rebound, so it was one-and-done every single time. They were scattered. We were just picking it apart at the end."
Johnson tried to regain the lead for Phoenix, but missed an 8-foot jumper with 23.7 seconds left. Bird secured the rebound, immediately calling for a timeout. Storm coach Brian Agler said he already had the winning play diagramed, ready to run for either Jackson or Bird.
Jackson ended up screening for Bird, watching the winning 24-foot shot drop through the hoop.
"It didn't even touch the rim," said Jackson, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
"We executed it to a T," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said. "This feels awesome."
Seattle, which went 7-0 against Phoenix this season, — including five regular-season meetings — will face either New York or Atlanta in the WNBA Finals. The Storm swept both teams in two-game sets during the regular season. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was Sunday night.
Players will have a week to rest and practice before hosting Game 1 of the Finals on Sunday at KeyArena.
"We're an old team," said Bird, who finished with 16 points and eight assists. "Any days where we don't have games are beneficial for us. It's huge."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
|Seattle||22||18||21||30 — 91|
|Phoenix||24||24||23||17 — 88|
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