WASHINGTON (AP) - After losing seven of their first eight games, the Seattle Storm decided to stop thinking too much and just let their instincts take over. Now, they're on an unbeatable roll.
Sue Bird scored 25 points and Ann Wauters added 14 as the Storm completed a home-and-home sweep of the Washington Mystics with a 79-71 win on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.
Seattle (6-7) never trailed and held a 30-17 advantage at the free throw line in the opener of a four-game road swing. The Storm moved into a tie with San Antonio for third place in the Western Conference.
``When you're in a comfort zone as a team, you're able to play instinctively, not think too much,' said Bird, who scored 18 points in the second half. ``Early in the season we were a new group, a think there was a lot of thought going on. Now, we're just out there playing.'
Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics (2-9) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Storm led by 14 points in the first half, though their edge was only 32-26 at halftime. With a second-half lineup featuring Langhorne and four reserves, the Mystics knocked down 7 of 10 shots opening the third quarter and tied the score at 36.
Seattle only made five 3-point field goals, but three came in the subsequent stretch. After 3s from Bird and Katie Smith countered Mystics scores, Wauters' shot from beyond the arc put the Storm ahead for good at 45-42 and sparked an 11-2 run.
``You can feel when a team is making a run and in those moments, you really need to bear down and focus even more then you were,' Bird said. ``We're veterans. We've been in this league. We know that you have to answer.'
The Storm's lead didn't dip below five points in the fourth quarter, and Bird ended any hopes of a Mystics comeback with consecutive jump shots for a 70-62 lead. The Storm made 9 of 10 free throws inside the final 2 minutes.
Washington, returning home following a winless road trip has lost four straight and eight of nine overall. Monique Currie scored 15 points and Natasha Lacy 11 for the Mystics.
``We didn't start off well,' Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. ``Anytime a team scores 30 points off the free throw line, that's tough.'
The WNBA's two lowest scoring teams played to form early on, scoring a combined 11 points over the opening 7 minutes before Seattle found its range late in the first quarter. Ewelina Kobryn scored Seattle's final seven points in the opening quarter and the Storm pulled away with a 16-4 run bridging the first two quarters for a 26-12 lead.
``We weren't really scoring there for a while and she just kind of came in and got us some buckets,' Bird said.
The Storm improved to 2-6 on the road. By the time their current trip is completed, they will have played 10 of 15 games away from KeyArena.
``Our team has gotten better over the last three weeks,' Storm coach Brian Agler said. ``We better get some road wins because we have so many of them over the first half of the season.'
Earlier in the day, the Storm waived second-year forward Victoria Dunlap. Drafted in the first round by the Mystics last year, Dunlap was sent to Seattle in a trade in the offseason. Agler expects the team to add a veteran to the roster on Friday and said the team is ``talking a lot' with veteran free agent Svetlana Abrosimova.
The Associated Press News Service
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