By Vin A. Cherwoo Associated Press
NEW YORK — After a slow start, Sue Bird got going down the stretch and helped the Seattle Storm avoid their first losing streak of the season.
Bird scored 13 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Storm beat the New York Liberty 92-84 Friday night.
Lauren Jackson had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Tanisha Wright scored 18 points and Swin Cash added 16 for league-best Seattle (10-2), which was coming off a loss at Indiana the previous night.
“We needed a win,” Bird said. “A couple of minutes left we had the lead. It was what were we going to do with it? We had a lot of people in here make big plays.”
With New York trailing by nine, Cappie Pondexter scored 10 of her 24 points in a 2-minute stretch to help the Liberty pull to 86-84 on her 3 with 33 seconds left. New York didn’t score again, though.
Wright, Bird — who had eight points in the final 2:34 — and Jackson made two free throws each to seal Seattle’s win.
“Sometimes it just comes down to who’s going to make the final run,” Bird said. “It was good to get a win here for us coming off a loss. Being on the road, it was great to bounce back. Back-to-back situations aren’t always the easiest, but we really responded well.”
Leilani Mitchell had 13 points and Taj McWilliams-Franklin added 11 for New York (4-6), which has lost consecutive games after winning two in a row. Plenette Pierson, acquired from Tulsa earlier in the week, scored 10 points in her Liberty debut.
“Plenette did a great job getting out in transition, and Taj here and there,” New York coach Anne Donovan said. “Seattle did a great job in their transition defense, getting back. I think they contained us. … We didn’t get anything easy in transition.”
McWilliams-Franklin left the game due to a shoulder injury with 6:05 to go in the third, and didn’t return until about 6½ minutes left in the fourth. The Liberty announced she had a bruised left rotator cuff.
The Storm opened the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run, capped by Bird’s 3-pointer and fadeaway jumper, to take a 72-65 lead with 6:09 left.
McWilliams-Franklin made two free throws and Pierson had a jumper to pull New York within three about a minute later. However, Wright had a 3 with 4:41 to go to push Seattle’s lead to six. The Storm got two offensive rebounds to help run time off the clock and capitalized when Wright converted a three-point play with 2:52 left to increase the lead to 80-71.
Seattle led 37-33 at halftime, and then both teams topped 50 in the second half.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense and we don’t like to get going that way,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “Fortunately for us, we had people that were hitting shots. Sue hit shots, Swin got some layups and some free throws. Tanisha Wright hit some really huge shots for us, late shot-clock type of stuff.”
The Liberty scored nine straight points during a 1:34 stretch midway through the third, taking a 50-46 lead on Pierson’s layup with 4:19 left.
Wright had two 3s and Svetlana Abrosimova made one in the last 3½ minutes of the quarter for Seattle, but Kalana Greene scored seven points for the Liberty — including a layup with under 3 seconds left to give New York a 63-62 lead heading to the fourth.
Jackson hit a 3-pointer and Cash had a three-point play to give the Storm a 22-17 lead with 8:06 left in the first half.
The Liberty scored the next eight points, taking a 23-22 lead on Pierson’s layup about 2 minutes later.
The teams traded leads the rest of the second quarter, with neither leading by more than two points until Bird’s jumper with 8.2 seconds left gave the Storm their four-point lead at the break.