Stewart, Bird push Storm past Mercury in OT, 91-87
SEATTLE (AP) — After watching her team let a big lead slip away, Sue Bird said hitting the reset button was as easy as resetting the game clock for an extra five minutes.
Bird scored 19 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:03 left in overtime and two clinching free throws with 2.1 seconds left, to help the Seattle Storm recover from blowing a 17-point fourth quarter bulge and beat the Phoenix Mercury 91-87 in the second game of the WNBA semifinals Tuesday night.
Seattle now has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series, having won Sunday’s first game by an identical score.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed to have been in that situation,” Bird said. “You can be upset or what not, but then, we just took a moment and said, ‘All right, we have five minutes – and we actually know how to win.’ This is the playoffs; this isn’t supposed to be easy.
“I think we already pushed reset once (coach Dan Hughes) said that. We kind of understood and said, ‘OK, let’s just go do this.'”
Added Hughes, “Losing a lead like that is kind of a shock to your system. For a team to lose the lead, go to overtime, then regenerate what we had to do, I have to applaud that.”
Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 27 points, getting 14 of those in the third quarter to help the Storm build a 19-point advantage.
But Phoenix, which was still down by 17 at 73-56 with six minutes left, went on a 23-6 run to end regulation, tying it on an incredible 3-pointer from the left corner by Diana Taurasi with 3.7 seconds left. It was her third trey in the final 1:36 of the fourth quarter. Taurasi finished with 28 points.
Stewart had a chance at the game-winner for Seattle in regulation, but her turnaround shot from the right of the hoop bounced off the rim.
“We were able to get some sort of rhythm going that I don’t think we’ve been able to get consistently in this series so far,” Taurasi said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win. Sometimes, it doesn’t go your way.”
The Mercury went up 85-81 with 3:21 left in overtime, and was still up 87-85 as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark. Jewell Loyd hit one of her two free throws with 1:31 left, cutting it to 87-86. Bird then drove for a lay-in and an 88-87 lead at the 1:03 mark.
Phoenix had two shots before Alysha Clark secured the rebound for Seattle with 28 seconds left. Bird missed a lay-up try, but the Storm twice won jump balls in the final seconds and went to the line on both. Loyd hit one with 6.1 seconds left, then Bird drained her two at 2.1.
“We have to be disappointed,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We can’t lose on an offensive rebound, a 50-50 ball. We have to get tougher. I’m going to bring up that we didn’t bring our best effort for 45 minutes tonight.”
Brittney Griner had a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 3:53 left in overtime.
BENCH BUNCH BRINGS IT
Rookie Jordin Canada, who averaged 5.7 points during the regular season, nearly doubled that in just eight minutes during the first half, pumping in 10 to help spark a 17-8 run that took the Storm from 16-14 down to 33-24 up. Canada finished with 12 points in 15 minutes. The Storm reserves scored just four points on Sunday, but contributed 20 points, 23 rebounds, and four blocked shots on Tuesday. The Mercury got just nine points and seven boards from their reserves in Game 2.
DECISIVE FROM DOWNTOWN
During the regular season, the Storm and Mercury were two of the better-shooting teams from 3-point range. Until the fourth quarter on Tuesday, it had been all Settle from downtown, as the Storm was 7 of 16 from downtown, while Phoenix had missed all 14 of its attempts. But Phoenix then drained five in a row – three straight by Taurasi in the final 1:36 of regulation to help force overtime, then one by Bonner and one more by Taurasi in the first 1:39 to help provide an 85-81 lead. The Storm wound up at 7 of 19; the Mercury hit 5 of 19.
DeWanna Bonner, who had double-doubled in all three playoff games so far for Phoenix, finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. She didn’t get into double digits until late in the third quarter. … Griner had two blocked shots, tying her with Candace Parker for No. 3 on the all-time WNBA playoff list with 76. … Bird is now above the .500 mark in all-time playoff games. Seattle is 21-20 in postseason play since her 2002 rookie season.
The series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Friday night. The teams played there twice during the regular season, with the Storm winning both: 87-71 on May 23 and 102-91 on July 31.