Six Storm players score in double figures to forge a second-place tie with Los Angeles in the WNBA standings.
Sometimes Sue Bird surprises herself.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all from the 37-year-old Storm star, the ageless point guard produces another jaw-dropping gem like she did in Sunday’s 84-70 win over Connecticut.
Afterward a jubilant Bird had difficulty explaining her no-look, over-the-head pass late in the third quarter that connected with Natasha Howard beneath the rim for a layup and a spellbinding fast break finish that sent the 9,307 at KeyArena into a frenzy.
“It kind of happens quick,” Bird said. “When you do something like that, you look back after and hope the player is where you thought they were going to be. And luckily Natasha was.
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“I kind of knew she was going to be open the way the play unfolded. It was just a matter of how I was going to get it there. I didn’t plan on that, but once I turned my back I thought all right this is the only way I’m to get it there.”
The ball sailed over Connecticut guard Rachel Banham who couldn’t have known what Bird was going to do because Bird wasn’t entirely sure.
“If you predetermine what you’re going to do, I would say 90 percent of the times it doesn’t work out because you’re almost forcing it or trying to make it happen,” Bird said. “You just have to let it unfold and at this point, I’ve played long enough that you can kind of get a sense and guess what people are going to do and what they’re not going to do.
“I knew if I went towards the left, somebody was going to have to guard me and once I saw who it was. I knew Natasha was going to be open.”
Connecticut forward Chiney Ogwumike offered a different take.
“She got lucky!” she said, laughing. “No, that’s standard Sue. That’s what we love about Sue Bird. It sucks to be on the other end, but at the same time it’s one of those things where that’s fun. I’d love one of those, you know what I’m saying?”
With Bird dishing nine assists to a season-high six players who scored in double figures, the Storm overwhelmed a short-handed Connecticut team without All-Stars Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams.
“Our offense lends to making the right pass at the right time,” said Bird, who is averaging 10 assists over the past four games. “And that’s really all that I do. I’m not out there necessarily breaking down the defense and making the exciting pass every time.
“For the most part I’m just the player that is trying to do that right thing at the right time and when you have offensive threats the way that we do — people who can hit shots — it’s going to lend to a lot of assists.”
Howard scored six of her team-high 13 points early as the Storm raced out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter while holding Connecticut to 3-of-10 shooting.
Seattle’s offense went cold to start the second and the Storm trailed 32-28 with 4:34 remaining before closing with a 19-3 run.
During the spurt, Seattle scored 17 unanswered points and took a 47-35 lead into the break.
Connecticut had cut its deficit to four points (51-47) when the Storm put the game away with 17-1 run, which included Bird’s no-look flip to Howard, to end the third and go ahead 68-48.
The Sun (9-7) never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way as the Seattle starters spent the fourth quarter on the bench.
Storm coach Dan Hughes applauded a defensive effort that held the Sun to 37.5 percent shooting and didn’t allow more than 10 points to a Connecticut starter. Alex Bentley tallied a team-high 15 points for the Sun.
Seattle also outscored the Sun 42-26 in the paint.
“It’s fun to watch us invest ourselves at two ends of the floor,” Hughes said. “That’s why you’re able sometimes to get runs because the defense fed into the offense and back and forth.
“I’m pleased because I feel like this team knows that we can win in different ways right now. We shot the three (8 of 25) OK. We were efficient offensively, but I think we’re finding different ways to win and you like that when your team is more invested in their total game.”
The Storm received just 11 points from Breanna Stewart, who entered the game leading the WNBA with a 22.6 scoring average. It was her second lowest scoring performance this season.
And yet, Seattle led by as many as 24 points due to a balanced scoring attack that included 11 points each from Jewell Loyd and Bird while Jordin Canada and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 10 apiece off the bench.
“That’s a good day that you can get six in double figures, nobody plays 30 minutes and get 42 points in the paint and defensively I thought we were solid,” Hughes said. “Now, off to New York.”
The Storm (12-5) begins the second half of the season with a two-game road trip. At the midpoint, Seattle is tied with Los Angeles for second place and a half-game behind Phoenix (13-5) for the best record in the WNBA.
“I’m happy we’re 12-5,” Bird said while noting 11 of the Storm’s final 17 games are on the road. “It’s better than being 5-12 without a doubt especially when we’ve had so many home games. But on the flip side we’re going to be on the road a lot and anything can happen on the road.
“We’re sitting here understanding that we’ve done some good things, but we have a long ways to go and there’s nothing to celebrate yet.”
• The Storm’s 81-72 win over Los Angeles on Thursday at KeyArena was the highest-rated regular-season WNBA game on ESPN2 since 2011. The telecast delivered a 0.4 overnight rating.