With 21 points, Sue Bird became the eighth player in WNBA history to join the 6,000-point club and overtook Lauren Jackson as the franchise's all-time leading scorer. The Storm (15-5) are now alone on top of the WNBA standings.
For her own purposes, Sue Bird needed just five points. Maybe 12.
She drained a three, for points 5,999, 6,000 and 6,001, becoming the eighth player in WNBA history to join the 6,000-point club, and kept going. Her first jumper of the second half gave her the Storm’s all-time scoring crown, 6,008. She didn’t stop then, or until the Storm had secured its fifth straight win, 97-91 over the Washington Mystics, and sole possession of the best record in the WNBA.
About two hours before the Storm (15-5) hosted the Mystics at KeyArena on Sunday, the Storm moved into the top spot. The Phoenix Mercury (14-6) saw its four-game win streak end in Atlanta. But the Mystics (12-7), leading the Eastern Conference, were never going to make it easy for Seattle to finish Sunday a full game up in the league standings.
The teams traded baskets through a back-and-forth first half, changing leads 12 times, neither opening one larger than seven points. But when Bird broke the record, passing Lauren Jackson’s 6,007 career points, it jump-started a 27-10 run to close the third quarter that allowed the Storm to open up its biggest lead of the game, one it would not surrender.
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As Bird tells it, she didn’t even know she was approaching her good friend’s mark. But good thing it was Bird passing Jackson.
“I think if it was anyone else, she’d be pretty pissed,” Bird joked.
Humble and jovial, Bird, who finished with 21 points, deflected the attention the best she could. After the game, she wasn’t lavishing in the record. She was the last one to leave the court after speaking with a group of young fans.
“I’m definitely not a better scorer than Lauren was,” Bird said, grinning and turning to Breanna Stewart next to her. “It’s fitting that Stewie’s sitting up here because, you know, assuming everything goes how it seems like it is, she’ll probably be breaking that one.”
It was Stewart, with 25 points, who topped the Storm’s scorers on Sunday, thanks in part to four game-icing free throws near the end of regulation. She also collected 10 rebounds for her 23rd career double-double, one area where she’s already caught up to the more diminutive guard, tying Bird for third on the Storm’s all-time list.
As for points? At 1,699 nearing the end of her third WNBA season, she’s still got a ways to go. But, if Bird’s evaluation proves right, all it will take is time.
With the win, Seattle improved to 13-1 with the current iteration of its starting five, featuring Bird, Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard. Winners of their past five, the longest current streak in the league, Bird said the Storm feels everything coming together.
“I think teams that are in a good place about who they are and what they want to accomplish generally play well, so the difference between early on and now is that’s just gotten better and better,” she said.
Although the 97-91 final would seem to indicate an abdication of the defensive side of the ball, Storm coach Dan Hughes thought otherwise. Even with Courtney Paris logging just three minutes down low, the Storm out-rebounded Washington 36-30. The run that put Seattle ahead for good was bookended by a couple of steal-and-scores by Howard, at the start, and Loyd, near the end.
“That’s how we become when we’re best: our ability to play out of our defense,” Hughes said. “The more chances we get, the better this Storm basketball team will be.”