Fourth quarter becomes Storm guard Sue Bird's calling card
Seattle point guard has been the star in at least half of the team's 14 comeback victories this season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
New York or Atlanta @ Seattle, noon
Sue Bird bent over and slapped the US Airways Center court three times in anger. The Storm point guard was trying to summon something.
Bird missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer, but the fourth-quarter comebacks her team had beckoned 13 times during the regular season were no joke. It could be done, again, because Bird is often the orchestrator.
Sunday's 15-0 run in the final three minutes to swipe the Western Conference championship from Phoenix was the latest. In the final seconds, Bird had the assist for the tying basket, the key defensive block and the game-winning three-pointer over the Mercury's 6-foot-4 DeWanna Bonner with 2.8 seconds left.
"We've had a lot of comebacks this season, and that's got to be by far the hardest," Bird said. "Just because of the atmosphere, their fans were terrific, and they played terrific."
Watching the play materialize before him, Storm coach Brian Agler remained calm.
"Not surprised," he said of the shot. Agler was the only member of the Storm organization who wasn't hoarse after the 91-88 win. Bird's shot was all teammates could talk about.
"We've seen her do it many times," Agler continued. "Sue has the ability to focus in tight situations and, again, she did the same thing."
The Storm has trailed heading into the fourth quarter 20 times this season. And buried in the Storm's 14-6 record in those situations is the fact Bird was the star in seven. She missed one rally, the Tulsa comeback in June, because of back spasms.
So when Bird said it was the confidence of having "done this before," believe it.
She had one in May against Washington at KeyArena. Bird scored 11 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter, including six free throws, to help the Storm to an 82-76 win.
Three weeks later, Seattle found itself positioned against a feisty New York team. Former Kennewick High standout Leilani Mitchell hounded Bird around the court. Bird had 13 of her team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter in a 92-84 victory.
"I do feel different, I feel older, more experienced," said Bird, who'll turn 30 in October.
No wonder when three-time MVP Lauren Jackson and Agler, the 2010 Coach of the Year, won their awards, both immediately recognized Bird's contribution. As expected, she tossed the acknowledgment right back.
"What they accomplished this season has nothing to do with anybody but themselves," said Bird, who is often overlooked for postseason awards. "There's a reason why they got those awards. For me, I know a lot of my success has to do with them. For them to feel the same, to know the feeling is mutual, it's a good feeling."
Agler said he's only seen one guard comparable to Bird — three-time Olympian Katie Smith. Although Smith played more on the wing for Agler's teams in the defunct ABL and the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, she had intangibles like aggressive defense that lifted the team.
"With Sue, it's her ability to control the game," Agler said of Bird, who is averaging 11.8 points and 8.5 assists in the postseason. "You don't see that on stat sheets. Sue and Katie will go down in history as the greatest that ever played."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Sue Bird's game-winning three-pointer to sweep Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals advanced Seattle to the WNBA Finals. Here's a look at how she fared in the fourth quarter of 13 of the Storm's 14 wins when trailing after three quarters. She missed the Tulsa game:|
|May 16||Los Angeles||81-67||8||14||1||4|
|June 18||New York||92-84||13||22||1||10|
|July 6||New York||78-70||11||16||1||3|
|July 20||San Antonio||80-74||9||20||2||4|
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