Bird returns to familiar setting

Updated: October 6, 2004, 8:51 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Sue Bird had a distinguished college basketball career at Connecticut, leading the Huskies to two national championships.

Now she'll lead her Seattle Storm against the Connecticut Sun on Friday night in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

"I think it's quite a feat for us to be here right now,'' Bird said after Seattle beat Sacramento 82-62 Tuesday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. "This is our first step toward a championship in Connecticut and I couldn't think of a better place for me.''

Bird played Game 3 after undergoing surgery Monday to reposition the broken nose she suffered in Game 2 of Seattle's first-round series against Minnesota. With a small cast on her nose Tuesday night, Bird had 10 points and a playoff-record 14 assists.

"I've been playing against her for a long time, and this year you can really see the difference in her game because she has more weapons at her disposal,'' Sacramento's Kara Lawson said. "She's definitely a quarterback out there.''

Seattle built big leads in Games 1 and 2 of the conference finals, only to see Sacramento rally, winning Game 1 in overtime.

The Monarchs trailed 44-43 early in the second half of Game 3, but were held scoreless for nearly eight minutes and the Storm ran off 20 unanswered points to finally put Sacramento away.

Seattle hit 12 of 16 3-pointers in Game 3 and set playoff records for 3s made in a game and in a half (10). Lauren Jackson led all scorers with 27 points and her five 3-pointers in the second half was a playoff record as well.

"We found openings and knocked down good, solid shots,'' Seattle coach Anne Donovan said. "That did surprise me, but that will teach me never to underestimate this group.''

There was no rest for the Seattle players, who flew cross-country Wednesday morning in preparation for the next round. Meanwhile, Connecticut has not played since Sunday after sweeping New York with a 60-57 win at home in Game 2 of the East finals.

The Storm and Sun met twice during the regular season, each team winning on its home court. Seattle won 68-63 on June 11, but Connecticut played without starting point guard Lindsay Whalen. The Sun knocked off the Storm 71-64 on Sept. 12.

The series returns to Seattle for Game 2 on Sunday, and Game 3, if necessary, on Tuesday.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press