Seattle 65, Indiana 59 (F)
Bird's crafty passes and clutch shots helped the Seattle Storm (15-7) overcome a 17-point first-half deficit on Friday night and run their winning streak to seven games with a 65-59 win over the Indiana Fever.
Bird, who will play for the U.S. Olympic team next month in Beijing, hit a fadeaway 3-pointer from the arc with 5:20 left that put the Storm up 55-51 and put Indiana away for good. It was her first 3 of the game, but after going scoreless in the first half, Bird said she knew Seattle needed someone to step up in Jackson's absence.
"I definitely wasn't shooting the ball well and I heard about it at halftime,'' Bird said. "That 3 going in, it was about time.''
Finishing with 11 points and five rebounds, the league's assists leader scored eight points in the final quarter and assisted teammates on several key possessions that preserved the Storm's late lead.
Sheryl Swoopes scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in playing more minutes than usual because Jackson left the Storm this week to join the Australian Olympic basketball team.
Fever coach Lin Dunn said Indiana intended on attacking the Storm near the basket, trying to take advantage of the missing 6-foot-5 Jackson. Early in the first half, it worked. The Fever (10-11) jumped out to a 28-11 lead midway through the second quarter by outscoring Seattle in the paint.
"Knowing she wasn't going to be out there, we wanted to establish the inside game,'' Dunn said. "We felt like we could do that and go at their post players.''
Fever center Tammy Sutton-Brown scored nine points in the first half. However, Bird and the Storm clamped down on defense and switched to an up-tempo attack on offense, cutting Indiana's lead to 33-27 at the half.
With 9:25 left in the game, Seattle took a 47-45 lead on Bird's foul line jumper. It was their first lead since taking an 11-9 advantage in the first quarter. Fever guard Katie Douglas hit a 3-pointer that gave Indiana the lead back at 51-50, but that was the last time the Fever were ahead.
Indiana played without All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, another member of the U.S. Olympic team. She was kicked in the right heel in the Fever's loss to Atlanta on Wednesday and missed the team's last two practices. Catchings has a bruise on her right Achilles' tendon, the one she partially tore in last year's playoffs.
That injury required surgery, nine months of rehabilitation and prevented Catchings from playing in Indiana's first eight games.
Indiana plays New York on Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first outdoor regular-season game in professional basketball, but the Fever say they need to snap their five-game road losing streak, regardless of where the game is played.
"We'll all be excited to play outside, but it's also another game that we really need to win,'' Sutton-Brown said. "It's against New York and they're ahead of us in the standings. It'll be a big game.''