Sue Bird lifts Storm in WNBA Finals opener
Guard hits 18-footer with 2.6 seconds remaining as Seattle wins 79-77
Seattle Times staff reporter
To stare at Sue Bird's brown eyes, the situation seemed as casual as a lazy Sunday afternoon at the lake.
Nearly 18 seconds ticked off the clock late in the fourth quarter with the score tied. Bird just watched as she dribbled the ball with 15,084 fans roaring inside KeyArena.
Then she attacked, as she did in AAU, high school, college and now the WNBA Finals against Atlanta, lulling Dream guard Armintie Price into a trap behind three-time MVP Lauren Jackson. It was enough to break the Storm point guard free for an 18-footer with 2.6 seconds remaining that gave Seattle a 79-77 victory in Game 1.
Atlanta tried to counter with All-Star Angel McCoughtry's three-pointer. But Bird and Tanisha Wright fronted her and the shot missed off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at KeyArena.
"I would not leave her (Bird) open in a situation like that. She's deadly," said Jackson, who spread her 6-foot-5 frame to cage Price and forward Sancho Lyttle behind her. "I knew that they were caught there, so I was trying to use my body and keep them there."
It's the second consecutive postseason game Bird has won on what's now a signature clutch basket. In the Western Conference championship Sept. 5, she hit a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining.
"It's situations I was put in at a very early age," said Bird, whose only celebration was thrusting her fists in the air after McCoughtry missed. "You get more confident the more you do things. At this point in my career, it's something I really enjoy."
In a quiet Atlanta locker room, Price replayed the final moments with teammates, trying to figure how to quickly make adjustments.
"I was supposed to go under the screen and Sue Bird kind of went back on me and as I tried to go under, she was already on the other side," Price said of Bird's game-winning shot. "I'll be replaying it a lot, but then when Tuesday comes, I've got to let it go and make sure it doesn't happen, again."
Lyttle added: "All I saw was the ball going up and I wasn't paying attention to nothing else. This (first postseason loss for the Dream) is nothing. If we lost by 20, then it probably would have. But we didn't. We lost at the buzzer."
Seattle, which once led by 13, was hardly jubilant after winning the Finals opener. The Storm received its usual balanced help, this time forward Camille Little completing all of the finer details to keep Seattle in a good position to win down the stretch.
In her first Finals appearance, Little finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds to complement Jackson's game-high 26 points and eight boards. But the Storm allowed 27 points on 18 turnovers.
"We just didn't want to settle," Little said. "That wasn't our best performance and we know we can play better than that. We're going to really have to check up and play defense."
The Storm also had trouble getting the ball to Jackson in the opening half. Further causing problems was foul trouble. All-Star Swin Cash collected three fouls in the opening half.
"I thought our team competed hard, but I don't think our team is satisfied with how they played, though," Storm coach Brian Agler said.
Bird, who was 6of 16 from the field, finished with 14 points and eight assists. Iziane Castro Marques and McCoughtry had 19 points apiece for Atlanta.
"Any time we've been in critical situations, Lauren has hit big shots, Swin has hit big shots, Camille, myself — it goes on and on," Bird said. "When you have that, it's dangerous, it's hard to guard."
• Both teams wore a new sponsorship logo below their numbers on the front of their jerseys. The WNBA sold the marquee space for the WNBA Finals to BBVA, the second-largest bank in Spain. BBVA sponsors La Liga soccer in its native country and coincidentally, Lyttle will play for the Spanish national team in the world championships later this month.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
|Atlanta||17||22||14||24 — 77|
|Seattle||22||17||20||20 — 79|
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.