Lynx rally from 17 down but fall to Storm

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm returned to form.

Bird scored 22 points, Swin Cash added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Seattle used a team effort to lock down two of the league's top scorers and hold on for a 76-73 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday afternoon.

Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins helped the Lynx hustle back from a 17-point deficit midway through the third quarter, but their early struggles were ultimately too much to overcome.

The Storm's seven-game winning streak was interrupted rather rudely on Sunday by a 32-point loss to the Washington Mystics, in which they allowed 10 3-pointers and scored a season-low 57 points.

Though Minnesota had a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds after a late push, Seattle re-established its strong defensive principles and moved into a first-place tie with San Antonio in the Western Conference at 16-8 -- making sure that last game was just an ugly aberration.

"Maybe a blessing in disguise," Bird said.

Augustus shot 3-for-16 from the floor and finished with 10 points. Wiggins went 3-for-11 and had 14 points -- including eight free throws. Her closely guarded, off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key hit the back of the rim and bounced back right before the buzzer, leaving the Lynx with their 11th loss in their last 16 games after a 6-1 start.

"That was our game plan, to try to shut down Candice and Seimone as much as possible, which is a very difficult task," Bird said. "You can't do it with just one person."

This was Seattle's third game without All-Star center Lauren Jackson, the league's third-leading scorer who left to join the Australian national team in preparation for the Beijing Olympics next month.

Another starter, Yolanda Griffith, was also out because of a migraine headache. Sheryl Swoopes played less than 12 minutes because of a hamstring injury that sidelined her for the second half.

But Camille Little and Tanisha Wright -- starting in place of Jackson and Griffith -- contributed 17 points and 12 points, respectively. The Storm, who allow an average of 69.9 points per game, the second-fewest in the WNBA, played solid help defense on pick-and-rolls and rarely let Augustus or Wiggins get clear shots.

"I'm just really proud of our team today," coach Brian Agler said. "It obviously gives us a great deal of confidence."

Vanessa Hayden-Johnson turned rebounds into short putbacks on consecutive possessions, and suddenly Minnesota was within one point with 1:23 remaining. The Storm missed twice, both right before the shot clock was about to expire, and the Lynx had the ball with a prime chance to take the lead -- calling timeout with 22 seconds left.

Wiggins twisted into the lane and took a tough bank shot that didn't touch the rim, and though Minnesota grabbed the rebound and retained possession with 10.7 seconds left -- only one second remained on the shot clock.

Hayden-Johnson's catch-and-release attempt from the top of the key missed badly, too, and Little sank a pair of free throws to push the lead back to three.

Lynx coach Don Zierden was back on the bench, having missed the last two games because of illness. Despite the fourth-quarter comeback, he didn't feel much better. After winning at San Antonio by 13 points on Saturday, Minnesota didn't have enough to beat the Western Conference's top two teams in consecutive games.

"We need to become a team that starts with our defense first," Zierden said, adding: "When we play with energy, we can beat good teams and when we don't play with energy, we can lose to anybody."