Bird Leads Storm Past Liberty, 84-66
SEATTLE (AP) — A blank list on the video board revved up the crowd.
No Seattle Storm player was on the injury report showed in the arena. The entire roster, for the first time this year, was available. The result was a blowout.
Sue Bird had 18 points and 10 assists, Lauren Jackson scored 16 points and the Storm snapped a three-game losing streak with an 84-66 whitewashing of the fatigued New York Liberty on Sunday night.
The Storm have fluctuated all season while navigating injuries and the absence of Jackson, who spent the first half of the year training for the London Olympics.
Sunday was just her second game back, she played a big role despite shooting 3 for 11 from the field.
With team’s so focused on Jackson, numerous options open up, such as Camille Little, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, and slashing space for rookie Shekinna Stricklen, who had 12 points.
“That’s when Sue’s at her best,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “(When) you put people around her that can do different things.”
The change — which led to Bird’s first double-double of the season and 20th of her career — was evident from the start. Stricklen’s layup on the break prompted New York coach John Whisenant to call a timeout with 5:20 left in the first quarter after the Storm opened on a 12-2 run.
Tina Thompson lofted in the exclamation point of the first quarter with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. Seattle finished the first 10 minutes up 28-9, its biggest lead of the season following the opening quarter. The Liberty committed eight turnovers in the first and was outrebounded 11-6.
Bird’s midrange jumper at the end of the second gave the Storm its biggest lead of the half, 21 at 51-30, and its biggest halftime lead of the season. Bird had eight assists in the half on her way to her first double-double of the season and 20th of her career.
Seattle (11-13) has struggled to come up with offensive rebounds throughout the season — coming into the game, the Storm averaged 6.35 offensive rebounds, by far last in the WNBA, and had 14 the last four games combined. Agler made it a point of emphasis and Sunday, the Storm had 13.
While the Storm ran out to a large lead, New York tried to steady itself on weary legs. The Liberty (9-15) played their sixth game in the last nine days, which left Whisenant irritated.
“Without taking anything away from Seattle, the league ought to take some of our loss,” Whisenant said. “It was a terrible schedule.”
Cappie Pondexter, the WNBA’s second-leading scorer, had 23 points for the Liberty, though New York would get no closer than 14 points in the second half. She was the only New York player in double figures.
Jackson is still trying to find her rhythm. She missed her first five 3-point attempts Sunday, the last hitting the rim, backboard, then the rim again twice before rolling off. Jackson laughed on her way back up the court. She swished her next 3. The three-time MVP is 4 for 15 from the field in two games since returning.
“As we get more practice under our belt, we’re going to get better,” Jackson said. “It was obvious the other night. Our next game we’ll get better. You never know what we’ll achieve.”
Count Whisenant as a believer.
“I think Seattle, now that they’ve got Lauren back — and when she gets in a rhythm like I know she can — I can see them getting into the playoffs and winning the whole thing,” he said.
— Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.