2011 in Review: Sue Bird
Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | Nov. 16, 2011
Sue Bird has always made it clear that her job as a point guard is to provide whatever the Seattle Storm's offense needs. In 2011, with Lauren Jackson sidelined much of the regular season following hip surgery, that was scoring production. Bird averaged a career-high 14.7 points per game, which led the Storm and ranked 12th in the WNBA. Among point guards, only San Antonio's Becky Hammon was more prolific.
Despite the increased role, Bird remained one of the league's most efficient scorers. On the strength of her 42.8 percent accuracy from three-point range, the WNBA's sixth-best mark, Bird posted her best True Shooting Percentage (.569) since the 2009 season. Though she scored more points, Bird hardly neglected her role as a playmaker, handing out 4.9 assists per game.
At the beginning of the season, with the Storm's starting lineup intact, Bird was able to balance scoring and passing. She recorded her only double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 assists in the Storm's Opening Day win over the Phoenix Mercury. Bird reached double-digit scoring in each of the campaign's first five games, including scoring 16 of her 24 points during a fourth-quarter rally against Minnesota that fell short and a 21-point effort at Tulsa during the game Jackson suffered her hip injury.
Bird's highest-scoring stretch of the season came in early July. From July 3 to July 19, she had seven-game streak in double digits. One of Bird's hottest shooting nights came on July 5 in a loss at Indiana. She knocked down five three-pointers in six attempts, scoring 21 points and handing out five assists. Bird scored 22 points against Washington as the Storm cruised to a win on Kids Day, then wrapped up the stretch with 26 points at Chicago.
As has been the case for all seven All-Star Games during her career, Bird was voted a starter for the Western Conference alongside teammate Swin Cash. Bird handed out four assists during the game.
With the Storm finishing a back-to-back in Tulsa on July 30, Bird delivered her best outing of 2011 to help the team to victory. She scored a season-high 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds. The 29 points were the most Bird had scored since her rookie season. Still, Bird saved some heroics for the following Friday, when the Storm hosted the Connecticut Sun. After Tina Charles scored with 3.1 seconds remaining to give the Sun the lead, it was obvious who would get the basketball for the Storm. Bird was able to free herself and dribble into a three-pointer just before the buzzer that touched nothing but the net. The shot was the sixth game-winner of Bird's career.
Alas, Bird could not repeat the trick four days later at New York. Under heavy defensive pressure from Essence Carson, Bird missed a runner at the buzzer in the Storm's loss to the Liberty.
At Aug. 13, the Storm celebrated Bird's 10 seasons in Seattle with an elaborate tribute during a game against the Atlanta Dream. Bird was presented with the same commemorative bracelet that Storm CEO Karen Bryant and Jackson previously received for their decade of service, as well as an oversized jersey signed by Storm fans thanking Bird for her loyalty to Seattle.
A big night from Bird was not enough for the Storm in Phoenix on Aug. 16. She scored 13 points in the first quarter and finished with 23 and eight assists, yet the Storm fell 81-79 to the Mercury in the last game before Jackson returned to the lineup on Aug. 20. Bird helped make that rematch with New York a successful one by poking the ball away from Carson just in time to preserve a 63-62 victory.
Three nights later, Bird made history in a win over San Antonio, scoring her 4,000th career point at the free throw line. Bird became the 16th player in league history to score 4,000 points and the first from the 2002 WNBA Draft. (Cash joined her shortly thereafter.) Bird provided late-game magic once more on Aug. 28 against the Los Angeles Sparks, drawing a foul in the closing seconds and making both free throws to untie the game and provide the final 65-63 margin.
With Jackson healthy, the Storm had more scoring balance late in the regular season. Bird scored 20-plus points just once the rest of the way, going for 21 on 7-of-12 shooting on Sept. 2 at Tulsa. Bird did finish the season with another double-digit scoring streak over the final six games on the schedule.
During the playoffs, Bird and the Storm met close friend Diana Taurasi and the Mercury for the second consecutive season. With the Storm getting big production from role players, Bird was able to take it easy in Game 1, scoring eight points in 29 minutes. Down in Phoenix for Game 2, Bird scored 17 points and handed out four assists. She had a big outing in Game 3, putting up 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Bird made a three at the third-quarter buzzer to give the Storm the lead, then knocked down a pull-up jumper to tie the game with 10.5 seconds left. Alas, Bird's bucket was overshadowed when the Mercury's Candice Dupree scored a putback to give Phoenix the lead. Without a timeout, the Storm was unable to set Bird up for a possible tying or winning shot.
- Scored 20-plus points nine times.
- Notched a season-high 29 points at Tulsa on July 30.
- Handed out a season-high 10 assists and recorded the Storm's only point-assist double-double on June 4 against Phoenix.
- Scored the game-winning points in the closing seconds on Aug. 5 vs. Connecticut and Aug. 28 vs. Los Angeles.
- Reached 4,000 career points on Aug. 23 against San Antonio.
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