Storm breaks road losing streak, tops Phoenix 83-77
Sue Bird had 18 points as the Storm moved one game closer to the Mercury in the competitive Western Conference standings.
Special to The Seattle Times
PHOENIX — The Storm has coped admirably without three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, still weeks away from returning from hip surgery. It's the absence of the Space Needle, coffee on tap and the 206 that it has had trouble with, so a date with favorite foe Phoenix came at just the right time.
The Storm won their ninth straight game against the Mercury, using a 20-4 run that took up most of the third quarter for an 83-77 victory at US Airways Arena, and even foul trouble to All-Star Game MVP Swin Cash did not make a difference.
Defending WNBA champion Seattle (9-7) has not lost to Phoenix since Sept. 10, 2009, and included in that run was a two-game sweep in the Western Conference finals last season.
As has been typical, the more physical Storm imposed its will while breaking a four-game road losing streak. Phoenix, which averages an WNBA-high 92.7 points a game, shot only 40 percent from the floor and had little help for Diana Taurasi, who had 26 points on 9 of 15 shooting.
"When it comes to our matchups with Phoenix, it is a battle of style. We are definitely defensive-minded. I think you see battles when these teams oppose each other," said Storm guard Sue Bird, who had 18 points, seven assists, three steals and five rebounds.
Camille Little had 15 points and the bench players contributed 28 points as Seattle moved one game closer to the third-place Mercury in the competitive Western Conference standings, in which 2 ½ games separate the top four teams.
In the telling third quarter, Bird had six points, reserve guard Belinda Snell had two three-pointers and Le'coe Willingham, a former Mercury forward, had two baskets. Willingham's quick layup with a minute left in the third period capped a 16-0 run and gave the Storm their biggest lead, 65-52.
Snell's two three-pointers were the only points the Storm scored away from the paint in that run as it exposed the Mercury's interior defense with a succession of pick-and-roll plays.
"We just kind of ran the same play over and over again, and they had trouble guarding it. When that happens you just have to milk it, and that's what we did," Bird said.
For all that, the Mercury (10-6) came back from a 71-59 deficit in the final minutes, twice getting to within one point, the last at 77-76 with 36 seconds remaining when the Storm was called for a 24-second shot clock violation.
But Little stole a pass intended for Taurasi on the left wing and took the ball all the way for a layup and a 79-76 lead.
"Who else would you give it to? That's one of those things where everybody in the gym knows where the ball is going," Little said of her defensive play.
"I just tried to jump in her path and make her go a different direction, and I happened to get a hand on the ball. It didn't go out of bounds, so I tried to just keep patting it and keep going the other way."
The Mercury led by 11 points a minute into the second quarter.
"We didn't give up," Little said. "A lot of teams give up on them, because they are hard to defend and they hit tough shots. They score so quickly, some teams just stop and let the game get away from them. We try to make sure we stay in plays with them and stay close enough to make a run at the end."
Storm 83, Mercury 77
|Seattle||18||22||27||16 — 83|
|Phoenix||27||16||14||20 — 77|
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