Sue Bird scores 31 to lead Seattle Storm past Phoenix
The veteran guard makes 10 of 11 field goals, including 5 of 6 three-pointers, and helps Seattle to an easy 83-68 victory over Phoenix.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Atlanta @ Seattle, noon
Sue Bird breezed into KeyArena sipping her favorite energy drink, coffee, not showing any signs of the strained hip flexor that pulled her from practice and Saturday's loss in Los Angeles.
"How's the hip?" reporters asked 90 minutes before tipoff.
In typical fashion, Bird did a better job of showing than explaining. Two three-pointers, a jumper off a screen and signature pull-up four minutes into the game gave a clear answer: Just fine.
Bird finished with a season-high 31 points in Seattle's 83-68 victory against Phoenix on Sunday. She had nearly outscored the Mercury herself at halftime (28-26) and was two shy of her career record (33) set as a rookie in 2002.
"The rest really helped," said Bird, who began to feel the twinge after her team's win in Connecticut on July 1. Doctors advised rest to prevent more issues.
Fresh for the second game of the back-to-back set, Bird made her first nine shots before clanking a three-pointer off the rim with 1.9 seconds left in the first half. She made her only three-point attempt in the second half, knowing her record was 33 points, but opting not to go for the milestone because Seattle led 54-34 when she nailed the fifth and final three-pointer.
"If you look, it's not like I was out there chucking," said Bird. "A lot of the shots were out of (the) offense, open, so like I said, sometimes they just drop like that."
Sitting two lockers down from Bird was backcourtmate Tanisha Wright. She scoffed at Bird's explanation on a night the crowd of 8,639 clung tighter to their commemorative Bird bobbleheads, hoping for her to reach the individual mark.
Having played with the All-Star the past eight years, Wright saw something different from simple baskets out of the offense. Even Storm coach Brian Agler noted Bird called her own number a lot to begin the game, unusual for the pass-first guard.
"She's got to say that, it's the politically correct thing to say and she's the most politically correct person you'll find," Wright said of Bird. "She was in a zone, literally. She took good shots and made the right plays to get herself open. We need her to be that aggressive and to score points like that."
Seattle was particularly in need because it played without center Ann Wauters (Achilles) and forward Tina Thompson (knee). Wauters is expected to join practice Tuesday after missing the past three games.
Thompson remained in L.A. to allow the inflammation in her left knee to subside. She suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the 24-point blowout and could not travel to Seattle with the team due to discomfort. Her status for Wednesday's matinee against Atlanta is uncertain.
Phoenix, which lost its fourth consecutive game, also was short-handed. Forward Candice Dupree was a scratch at tipoff because of a bruised left knee, while Penny Taylor (knee) is out for the season and Diana Taurasi (hip) hasn't played since May.
The depleted rosters prompted unusual matchups and rotations, like Storm guard Katie Smith and reserve Alysha Clark playing power forward. For Phoenix (4-13), there wasn't a consistent go-to scorer as the Mercury shot 32.8 percent from the field — its second-worst of the season.
"We were a little tired," said Mercury coach Corey Gaines, whose team lost in double overtime to Atlanta on Saturday. "It's tough, especially when you can't score. Every dog has its day and it's not our day. We'll be back one day."
The Storm (8-9) needed the win, wanting to reach eight victories before the Olympic hiatus begins July 14. Seattle has two games left before the break.
Seattle also needs to get an edge in the series against Phoenix, which could determine playoff positioning after the break and an anticipated return of a healthy Taurasi.
"After the hole that we dug, there's definitely a part of us that's happy we've gotten out of it a little," said Bird of the turnaround after the 1-7 start. "Now that we hit it (eight games), we can't be satisfied."
|Phoenix||12||16||17||23 — 68|
|Seattle||22||23||20||18 — 83|