PHOENIX (AP) - Sue Bird wanted no part of a deciding game with a spot in the WNBA finals on the line.
Thanks to her clutch shooting, the Seattle Storm won't have to worry about that risky proposition.
Bird made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left Sunday and the Storm closed out the Western Conference finals with a 91-88 victory over the defending champion Phoenix Mercury, closing the game with a 15-0 run.
``I know I didn't want to play Phoenix in Game 3, that would have been very, very hard, even on our home court, it would have been very difficult,' Bird said.
``So the best part about that shot, the best part about winning this game, is the series is over and we have a week to prepare, and to rest.'
Diana Taurasi, who finished with 28 points, missed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer for Phoenix.
The Storm earned their seventh consecutive win and advanced to the finals for the first time since they won it all in 2004. They will meet the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between New York and Atlanta, which won 81-75 in Game 1 on Sunday night.
``The last five years we haven't gotten out of the first round,' Bird said. ``For us, there is almost a series of humps - we had to get over the hump to get out of the first round, to be in the Western Conference finals.'
Swin Cash had 23 points and eight rebounds, helping Seattle erase an 88-76 deficit with 3:21 left in the second game of the best-of-three conference finals. League MVP Lauren Jackson added 20 points and eight boards while Bird finished with 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
``I've seen her do this multiple times in the last three years, just hit crucial shots at the end of the game,' Storm coach Brian Agler said of Bird. ``It wasn't a hard decision about who to go to at that time.'
Phoenix missed shots on three consecutive possessions in the final 1:35, the last being Tameka Johnson's short layup against Bird. Bird grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 23.7 seconds on the clock.
Seattle's plan was to find Jackson or Bird for the final shot.
``We were going to put Tanisha (Wright) in a pick-and-roll and try to get some action on the back side with Sue and Lauren and we thought that one of them might get freed up,' Agler said. ``Fortunately Sue got freed up.'
The Mercury, which finished second in the West despite a 15-19 record, went 0-7 against the Storm this year, the first time a team has recorded that many wins against one team in a season in league history.
``We did everything we wanted to do except win,' Johnson said. ``It just came down to getting stops and we didn't get them when we needed to.'
Johnson had 15 points and 12 assists for Phoenix, which had won two of the last three WNBA titles.
Cash sparked Seattle's big rally with a three-point play with 3 minutes left and Jackson, who had been held relatively quiet, had five points in the final 2:33. Cash converted a tying layup with 36 seconds left after a Jackson offensive rebound.
``We had chances to win, we just didn't get it done,' Taurasi said. ``Not only tonight but throughout the whole year. We've been pretty inconsistent as a team and individuals and that shows in games like this.'
Phoenix out together a 20-1 run in the second quarter, holding Seattle without a field goal for more than seven minutes. But the Storm scored the last seven points of the half to cut the lead to 48-40 at the break.
Taurasi, the league's leading scorer during the regular season, scored 10 points in an impressive stretch during the run after being held to nine points in the first game of the series.
Jackson had 10 points and six rebounds in the first half, but also picked up her third foul with 2:09 left in the second quarter.
Phoenix increased its lead to 67-48 lead with 5:24 left in the third and Seattle responded again, finishing period with a 13-4 surge to trim the deficit to 71-61 entering the fourth.
``They stayed with it,' Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. ``We tried to really force the game on them up-tempo, they hung in there. Good team.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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