Bird Soars Storm Past Dream

Sep 12 2010 8:10PM
It wasn’t an exact déjà vu moment for the Seattle Storm, but it was close.

Sue Bird’s two-point basket with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Storm a 79-77 win on Sunday in Game One of the WNBA Finals at KeyArena in Seattle. The victory ran their record at home this season to 20-0.

“The way they guarded the pick-and-roll, I was able to get an open look,” Bird said. “I had a feeling that if I went off the pick and brought it back to the same side I had just come from they were going to be very low and I was going to be able to get a look.”

That predicted look Bird describes couldn’t have worked out any better. The four-time WNBA All-Star was left wide open, as the Dream defense was planted near the basket.

“It just played out well,” Bird said. “Once you’re in your shooting form, there’s nothing else to think about but trying to knock it in.”

With the score tied at 77, the Storm took a timeout with 20.4 seconds left on the clock. Storm head coach Brian Agler told his team to hold for the final shot, meaning they make it and they win or they miss and the conciliation is overtime. About 18 seconds later, Bird pulled up at from the left corner of the foul line and drained the basket.

“I think with the way the game was being played tonight and who was on the floor and who was making the good decisions, we wanted to put the ball in Sue’s hands,” Agler said.

“You get confidence the more you do things and the more you’re successful at them,” Bird said. “I think, at this point in my career, it’s something that I enjoy. Those situations are fun, especially when they go in.”

The Dream had one last possession, but Angel McCoughtry drew double coverage from Tanisha Wright and Bird as she hoisted a three, which hit the rim as time expired.

“We stayed man-to-man and tried to make her take a tough shot,” Wright said. “She makes that shot over me, and Sue came in to help at the last second, you have to live with it. That was it. Just try to make her take a tough shot.”

“We are a mature team from the standpoint that we’ve been in a lot a lot of close games, a lot of games we had to come back in the fourth quarter,” Storm forward Swin Cash said. “We can always reach back into our memory bank and understand that that’s something we can get done when need be.”

The similarities between Bird’s last-second shot on Sunday and the one she made in the deciding Game Three of the Western Conference Finals are eerie. In that game, Seattle called timeout with about 20 seconds remaining, held for the final shot, Bird hit the game-winner with 2.8 seconds left and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi missed a three-pointer with two Storm players in her face as the clock hit zero.

Bird finished with 14 points and a game-high eight assists. League MVP Lauren Jackson, led all scorers with 26 points. Camille Little added 18 for the Storm.

Bird’s teammates say they were anything but shocked when she made the game-winner. In fact, they’ve come to expect it.

“All I can say is that I’ve seen her do it so much that I’m not really surprised,” Cash said. “It’s kind of like an expectation for me now.

“It’s not ‘oh, my goodness, I can’t believe she hit it.’ It’s like ‘alright, good shot Bird’,” Wright added. “She’s been doing it all year.”

Not only did the Storm outscore the Dream, but they also outrebounded (36-34) them. Rebounding was the Dream’s forte this season, as they finished as the top team in that category. With a much taller team inside, the Storm had to find ways to keep the Dream, and notably Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza, away from the boards.

“They’re a great team offensively and definitely. I think rebounding, every game, they’ve kind of hurt us,” Jackson said. “It was a really big game for us just to get the Finals jitters out of the way and to be able to move forward and work on the things we need to get better. The rebounding was definitely a huge plus for us.”

“We know how good they are in terms of the boards and how well they rebound both offensively and defensively so we know that’s something that we have to control to be successful,” Wright said.

McCoughtry and Iziane Castro-Marques each finished with 19 points. Sancho Lyttle had a game-high 14 rebounds.

Both McCoughtry and Cash, two of their team’s top performers, got into foul trouble early. By the end of the first quarter, both had three in the box score. That total definitely hurt McCoughtry and Cash in terms of minutes. The Dream forward was on the floor for 21, while Cash finished with about 19.

“I guess the difference between Angel and I is I stayed in foul trouble throughout,” Cash said with a laugh. “It’s just one of those things where the calls are going to go your way and sometimes they’re not. You have to figure out a way to make adjustments, but I hope it’s not the same come Tuesday.”

Tuesday is Game Two of the WNBA Finals, which again is at KeyArena. The best-of-five series doesn’t shift to Atlanta until Game Three on Thursday.

“Our job is to enjoy this until we finish dinner tonight,” Agler said. “Then they’re going to get ready for Tuesday.”