Storm routs Mercury in final game before Olympic break
Sue Bird has season-high nine assists in Seattle's 83-64 win at Phoenix.
Special to The Seattle Times
PHOENIX — Storm guard Sue Bird said in a pregame news conference Friday that she relished the opportunity to help Geno Auriemma, her coach at the University of Connecticut, earn a title he has never owned — Olympic champion — when the two reunite on the U.S. team for the 2012 London Games. Bird then showed how much she could help.
Bird tied her season high with nine assists and scored nine points, leading the Storm into the Olympic break with an 83-64 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.
The Storm (9-10) has won eight of its last 11 games entering the monthlong break, including two in the last five days against the Mercury (4-15). The teams will meet again when the WNBA season resumes Aug. 16.
"We knew to have a successful second half of the season, we were going to have to finish strong in the first half. It leaves a good taste in your mouth before break," said Bird.
Bird, who had 31 points in an 83-68 victory over the Mercury on July 8, left the scoring to others for the most part Friday but was there to kick-start the Storm early. She had six assists and five points in the first quarter, helping build a lead the Storm never relinquished.
Katie Smith was the prime beneficiary, scoring 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter. Smith made all of her shots in the quarter — five field goals, including three three-pointers, and a free throw.
"Everybody came out with some energy tonight," she said. "It was nice to get going and make them worry about something. It opens up other things. (Bird) sees the floor. It is fun to play with her, because she does make life a little easier."
Rookie Shekinna Stricklen had her first double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and forward Camille Little added 15 points.
DeWanna Bonner had 18 points and reserve Lynetta Kizer had 14 for the Mercury, which played again without injured star guard Diana Taurasi. Phoenix shot 33 percent from the field and made only one basket in the third quarter, when the Storm had a 26-6 scoring edge.
"It's tough when you can't score," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said.
The Storm had 20 fastbreak points and a season-high 21 assists.
"We focused on running," Bird said. "We have a lot of players who thrive in transition, and we haven't done much of it. Brian (Agler, Storm coach) really stressed that. We just wanted to use our defense to generate some offense."
"We need to put more pressure on our opponents. We need to get out in transition and score on people," Agler said.
Bird and Taurasi, who also played for Auriemma at UConn, left after the game to join Team USA for two days of workouts in Washington, D.C. Bird and Taurasi have won two gold medals apiece, but this will be Auriemma's first Olympics as head coach.
"We'll get to do it with someone who kind of raised us in a way, basketball-wise," Bird said. "We hope to give him something that he hasn't accomplished yet."
|Seattle||27||14||26||16 — 83|
|Phoenix||20||17||6||21 — 64|