Feeding off Sue Bird and a second-half surge, the Storm cruised to a 76-58 victory over the Tulsa Shock (0-5) for its first win of the season.
Bird quickly erased the slow start to her 11th WNBA go-round with 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting as Storm head coach Brian Agler became the winningest coach in women’s professional basketball history. Unhappy with the play of his seven-time WNBA All-Star, Agler demanded Bird be more aggressive offensively after Seattle dropped the season’s first three games.The former UConn star responded by hitting five threes and turning the ball over just once in 33 minutes.
“Shots were falling and you just want to take advantage of it,” Bird said after dropping jumpers from all over the floor. “For me, whether or not shots go in, I think everyone benefits from that. Brian has been getting on me to do that and I tried to do that and luckily the shots went in.”
Bird highlighted the back-and-forth first half the with a running, double-clutch three-pointer from well beyond the arc to put the Storm up 17-14 at the end of the first quarter. She finished the first half with 15 points while Camille Little had 10.
“Camille was great,” Bird said of her starting power forward. “I think tonight what you saw was kind of patented Camille. It was just the usual — playing hard, getting all those loose balls, taking charges, getting rebounds. She did a great job bringing the ball up.”
Little paced Seattle’s 16 points in the paint while pulling down nine rebounds on a night where Ann Wauters struggled. She helped the Storm take a 41-39 second half lead by knocking in a trey from the top of the key. Little also did her best pressure-relief valve impersonation against a Tulsa team that pressed for 40 minutes.
“Their team was forcing 27-plus turnovers a game and that’s how they get most of their points,” Little said. “We didn’t turn it over so it’s pretty hard for them to score when we get back in our defense. I think we’re a pretty good defensive team and we were trying to make sure we took care of the ball. It worked out.”
Little helped Seattle outscore Tulsa 40-23 in the second half en route to a season-high 19 points. The Storm forced 16 Shock turnovers while holding a reeling Tulsa squad to just 28.3 percent shooting.
With Bird playing two-guard thanks to Temeka Johnson’s pesky defense, the Storm’s franchise player was forced to find new ways to score.
“We tried to move Sue around against the press,” Agler said. “They did a good job of keeping the ball out of her hands, which forced her to play off the ball. “She found ways to get the ball in her hands and really be creative. She did a great job tonight.”
Bird capped her best performance of the season late in the fourth quarter, erasing any doubts of another fourth-quarter collapse.
With the shot clock winding down and the offense stagnant, Bird crossed over with the dribble, created space at the top of the key and banked home a running three to put the Storm up 69-50 and send the 7,489 in attendance into a frenzy.
While Agler seemed pleased with his personal accolade post-game, he was more pleased that his team finally showed tangible progress on a night where the rim looked bigger than the federal deficit.
“Every team is different,” he said. “Every team goes through their own process of improvement and I think our team has a long way to go. I also think we’ve made great improvements the last two weeks.”