Sue Bird still looks to pass before putting up a shot, but that doesn’t mean she can’t help the Seattle Storm’s offense that is missing All-Star center Lauren Jackson.
Bird scored 22 points and Swin Cash added 20 in the Storm’s 79-71 home victory over the Washington Mystics on Tuesday.
Seattle (7-4) has won three of four, a stretch that started with a 73-63 victory at Washington on July 3. The Mystics (2-9) have dropped four in a row.
Camille Little had 12 points for Seattle.
Bird, who topped the 20-point mark for the fourth time this season, sealed the win by scoring on a fastbreak lay-in with 42.3 seconds remaining to give the Storm a 78-71 lead. She added a free throw with 16.5 seconds to go.
“We’re just taking what they’re giving us,” said Bird, who had 15 points by halftime and made eight of 14 shots overall – including 2 for 4 from 3-point range. “(It) was a great team win, and everybody at some point stepped up and made a big play.
“Whoever gets the points gets the points.”
Storm coach Brian Agler is counting on Bird to get more of those points until Jackson, the three-time WNBA MVP, is able to return. Jackson is out 8 to 12 weeks following hip surgery in late June.
Bird entered this season with a career average of 12.4 points. That has gone up this season as she averaging 16 points per game. Bird scored 17 points against Washington last week.
“When Lauren is out, other people really have to step up and contribute in the scoring factor,” Agler said. “Sue has consistently done that over the years, and she’s doing it now when we need it.
“She’s a player who contributes in a lot of different ways, and she makes her teammates better around her, and that’s sort of her strength. But she has the ability to score, too, and that’s why she’s world-class. She can do both.”
Washington was led by Marissa Coleman’s 16 points. Matee Ajavon had 13, and Mystics leading scorer Crystal Langhorne added 10 in her return to the lineup after she missed three games because of back pain. Langhorne, who averages 18.1 points, hadn’t played since June 26.
Washington got within 76-71, but was scoreless for the final 2:08 of the game.
“We had our opportunities to take the lead, and we settled on some jump shots and missed some shots (0 for 5) down the stretch,” Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said. “That made the difference.”
Seattle built leads of 12 points five times, the last at 59-47 late in the third quarter.
The Mystics used long-range shooting to stay in the game, making 10 of 17 attempts from behind the 3-point arc. Washington cut its deficit to two at 61-59 on Nicky Anosike’s two free throws with 9:37 left.
“They got stops,” Ajavon said. “It was maybe three possessions where we could have taken the lead, and we were unable to execute. Our effort, it was aggressive, but it didn’t work.”
The Mystics’ only lead was 3-0 when Ajavon sank hit a 3-pointer. The Storm answered with a 9-0 run to go in front for good.
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