STORM WINS: Bird was a little tongue-tied in postgame interviews — a rarity for the PG. “See, that’s why I don’t do it as much,” she joked with reporters of scoring a season-high 31 points in the 83-68 win against Phoenix on Sunday. She only attempted one shot — a three-pointer — in the second half, which put the Storm up 54-34 with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter. Bird knew of her record (33), it happening in a win against Portland that put Seattle in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but she didn’t go for the mark. Agler said he didn’t know, so there was no reason to play her more than three minutes in the fourth quarter. “We were up 20. I think I would look a little ridiculous trying to go for some career-high,” said Bird who was 10-for-11 from the field, connecting on five three-pointers. “That’s not me. Who knows what would have happened if the game was close, I can’t speak to that. But at the end of the game, my teammates were doing a great job and I wanted to get them in the flow as well.” Little had 18 points and a season-high nine rebounds while Kobryn had 10 points before fouling out in her first career start. She’s scored in double figures in her past three games — a first for her. Seattle improved to 8-9 with two games remaining before the league-wide Olympic break begins July 14. But Agler is concerned about making it there with the hobbled roster. Little and Wright were blanketed in ice postgame to ease nagging injuries. “We probably won’t overdo it in practice,” Agler said of Bird’s play. “She’s not the only one. We’ve got multiple people hurting right now. We’ve got people who are playing big minutes who are not 100 percent. We’ve just got to find a way to play Wednesday and then go to Phoenix for our last game before the break.”
SPOTTED: Seahawks stars Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman made their second trip to a Storm home game, tossing shirts during a timeout in the fourth quarter. The Storm is up 77-60, handing the Mercury its fourth consecutive loss. Check that. Bird with a game-high 31 points served up the loss. There’s 2:21 remaining in the game.
BREAKTIME: Seattle is up 62-45 and Bird is close to her record with 31 points on 10-for-11 shooting from the field. Seattle is shooting 56.3 percent (9 for 16) from three-point range to compensate for getting outscored 16-14 in the paint. I’m taking a break to write the newspaper version of the story. Check the Twitter feed to the right (@JaydaEvans) for the final score. I’ll return after postgame interviews to wrap it all up.
HALFTIME: So, Bird is a bucket behind the Mercury’s lead at the break. She has 26 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the field and Phoenix is down 45-28 overall. Bird’s career record is 33 points set in 2002 against Portland. I was at the game and she was just as amazing as she is tonight. But it is interesting she hasn’t topped that mark since. Her high was 29 points last season. Phoenix simply doesn’t have any consistent scoring options, so its rebounding, hustle and work on defense isn’t making a difference in the score. The Mercury is shooting 27.6 percent in the first half led by 10 points from Bonner. Avery Warley has six boards off the bench. The toughest challenge will be holding control of the game. We’ll see how that goes in the second half.
SCORE MUCH?: Bird just drained her ninth consecutive shot, a three-pointer, and made a FT for 24 points in the first half. Phoenix has 26 on 26.9 percent shooting.
ANOTHER LOSS?: Agler is already down three players, Clark could make it a fourth if she doesn’t calm the fouls. One was a farce, but she’s got three with 8:34 remaining in the opening half. She’s getting more minutes than normal to help the post rotation. It may not be a factor is Bird stays hot. The PG nailed two more tough shots to go 7-for-7 from the floor so far. The Storm is up 30-15 with 7:30 on the flight. Fans are screaming for the Mercury to hurry up and lose so they can catch the red-eye home.
SAVING FACE: Phoenix ended the quarter with five quick points to pull within 22-12 at the end of the first quarter. There won’t be any dubious records to open the game, but the Mercury is shooting 20 percent (4-for-20) and is getting outrebounded 11-8. Bird remains hot, leading her team with 13 points. Seattle is shooting 53.3 percent and playing aggressive in terms of limiting Phoenix’s looks at the hoop.
ALL-AIR: Houston had one of those embarrassing misses where she was solo driving baseline to the hoop and missed, watching the ball go over the rim. She’s sitting on the bench contemplating life now. Phoenix had to call timeout because Bird is sizzling the Mercury. She’s 4-for-4 to start the game, scoring 10 of the Storm’s 12-0 lead. There’s 6:23 remaining in the game, Phoenix going 0-for-7 with two turnovers and one rebound.
IT’S GOOD: OK, one three-pointer doesn’t constitute a healthy hip but Bird did make her first bucket of the game and looked good running the floor to start. Seattle is up 3-0 with 8:42 on the clock in the first quarter.
RUSSIAN LOVE: Abrosimova received a raucous applause during pre-game player introductions. It’s her first game at KeyArena since winning Game 1 of the WNBA Finals against Atlanta in 2010. She re-signed with Seattle on June 29.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Storm F Alysha Clark celebrated her 25th birthday on Saturday while G Svetlana Abrosimova is turning 32 on Monday.
The Storm (7-9) is dressing nine players, but only eight are expected to play against Phoenix on Sunday. Storm PG Sue Bird was out with a strained hip flexor, missing Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, but woke feeling good and will play.
“(My doctor) was kind of funny, he basically said I must have pissed my hip off a little bit and I needed to let it not be mad at me anymore,” said Bird, who also added the injury wasn’t related to her surgically repaired right labrum, although it is the same leg. “The other thing he said was rather then have it be something I’m dealing with the next three months, nip it in the bud. I was able to get some pretty good rest and with that, I’m going to play and see how it feels afterwards and go from there.”
Posts Tina Thompson and Ann Wauters are different stories, however.
Thompson didn’t return with the team from LA, staying up until about 3 a.m. after a hospital visit to examine her left knee. She strained the knee in the fourth quarter of the 24-point loss to the Sparks and could spend a few days in LA to allow the inflammation to subside. Thompson is a native and will mostly like stay with family until she’s better. Her status for Wednesday’s matinee against Atlanta at KeyArena is uncertain.
“The tests yesterday didn’t show any significant knee damage,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “There was some inflammation on the outside of her left leg, one of the ligaments. But in regards of it being significant, that didn’t show up. It was sort of strange because last night she wasn’t in a lot of pain because her leg was numb. She bruised a nerve that numbed her leg but this morning she was starting to get some significant pain in her knee which isn’t good but is good because now her nerve is starting to come back.”
Wauters was on the court warming up with the team Sunday and is going to try to practice on Tuesday. She’s missed two games with a small tear in her left Achilles. Wauters, a starter, said she suffered the injury in a road loss to New York.
Agler said he’ll start C Ewelina Kobryn in place of Wauters. Kobryn has scored in double figures the past two games. But the coach still expects to have to run small lineups to get by against the Mercury (4-12).
Storm reserve Alysha Clark, who played PF in college, and G Katie Smith could see time in the post to counter the absence of Thompson and Wauters.
“It’s tough,” said Bird of the depleted rotation that’s already missing All-Star C Lauren Jackson. “It’s limiting and a lot of people are going to have to play different positions…it’ll be an interesting test.”
Well, the study period is over. Let’s get to the exam with your starting lineups:
F DeWanna Bonner
F Alexis Hornbuckle
C Krystal Thomas
G Charde Houston
G Samantha Prahalis
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Ewelina Kobryn
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird
Tonight’s officials are Kurt Walker, Eric Brewton, and Jeff Wooten.