Basketball·WNBA ROUNDUP

'Sue Bird Day': Sun beat Storm in Bird's final game in Connecticut

It was officially Sue Bird Day in Connecticut on Thursday, but the former UConn star's last scheduled night playing in the state was spoiled by the Connecticut Sun.

Former UConn star finishes with 14 points, 7 assists in front of sell-out crowd

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) is defended by Connecticut Sun guard Nia Clouden (11). Bird finished with 14 points and seven assists for the Storm in front of a sell-out crowd that included many fans wearing Sue Bird and UConn gear. (Bryan Woolston/The Associated Press)

It was officially Sue Bird Day in Connecticut on Thursday, but the former UConn star's last scheduled night playing in the state was spoiled by the Connecticut Sun.

Alyssa Thomas scored 19 points and dished out 11 assists to lead Connecticut over the Seattle Storm 88-83.

Brionna Jones added 13 points, and Courtney Williams and DeWanna Bonner each had 12 for the Sun (20-9).

The 41-year-old Bird finished with 14 points and seven assists for the Storm (18-11) in front of a sell-out crowd that included many fans wearing Sue Bird and UConn gear.

"A lot of times as a UConn player, I feel like the fans look at us like family," Bird said. "And they stay with us through our careers. That's something that I treasure, something I've really enjoyed every time I came back here. So, tonight was a perfect way to end that. I would have preferred a win, but I'll take it."

Two other former UConn stars, Breanna Stewart and Gabby Williams led Seattle with 17 and 16 points respectively.

Bird, who plans to retire at the end of this season, hit her first two shots of the game — both 3-pointers — and had eight points in helping Seattle to an early 18-8 lead. The Storm led 24-21 after a quarter.

But Connecticut closed the first half on an 11-3 run. A one-handed set shot from Thomas gave Connecticut its first lead just before halftime and Connecticut went into the break up 44-40 and led 72-68 after three quarters.

Williams tied the game at 83 with a steal, a nice spin move and a layup. But Natisha Hiedeman hit a 3-pointer at the other end for Connecticut. Neither team could hit a shot from the floor over the final 2:42, with Stewart missing three for Seattle and Connecticut held on for the win.

The game was played in front of 9,137 fans, the first sellout in Uncasville since the 2019 WNBA Finals and many were there to see Bird. They gave the 41-year-old a standing ovation during a pregame ceremony and another during player introductions.

"I appreciate that they honor and welcome back the UConn players," said Sun coach Curt Miller. "But through and through they are Sun fans, and I appreciate that balance."

Stephanie Brune, 28, of Lakeville, Massachusetts, wore a goat's-head hat, complete with horns, and said she considers Bird the greatest of all time.

A fan holds a sign thanking Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird during the second half of the WNBA basketball game between the Connecticut Sun and the Storm, Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. Bird is set to retire following this season. (Bryan Woolston/The Associated Press)

"She's a pioneer for our age group," Brune said. "She's a leader through and through and she's phenomenal."

Connecticut gave Bird several gifts, including a selection of books curated by her sister Jen, who owns a book store in nearby Greenwich, and a 2002 vintage bottle of wine.

Bird played 30 miles north at UConn from 1998-2002, leading the Huskies to two of the program's 11 NCAA championships. Her former college coach, Geno Auriemma, watched from a sky box.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont declared Thursday "Sue Bird Day" in Connecticut.

"[Bird] is a trailblazer, whose tenacity has elevated the sport of basketball. Connecticut is proud to be part of her journey," he tweeted.

The Storm started four former UConn players: Bird, Stewart, Williams and Tina Charles, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Taurasi, Diggins-Smith lead Mercury past Sparks

Diana Taurasi scored 30 points, Skylar Diggins-Smith added 27 and the Phoenix Mercury rolled to a 90-80 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night.

Taurasi hit five 3-pointers and added six rebounds, while Diggins-Smith grabbed five rebounds with six assists for Phoenix (13-16). Shey Peddy scored 12 as the Mercury won their second straight and moved into third place in the Western Conference — passing Los Angeles and Dallas.

Chennedy Carter led the Sparks (12-16) with a season-high 23 points. Nneka Ogwumike had 19 points, while Kristi Toliver and reserve Jordin Canada scored 10 apiece. Los Angeles has lost two straight and five of seven.

Diggins-Smith, Taurasi and Peddy accounted for 23 of 26 first-quarter points as the Mercury took a nine-point lead.

Taurasi and Diggins-Smith teamed up to score the first 16 points in the second quarter as Phoenix pushed its lead to 42-22 at the 6:22 mark and never looked back in taking a 54-32 lead at intermission.

Cloud, Atkins help Mystics to victory over Wings

Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins scored 14 points apiece and the Washington Mystics breezed to an 87-77 victory over the Dallas Wings on Thursday night.

Cloud had seven assists and Atkins handed out six for Washington (18-11). The other three starters — Alysha Clark, Myisha Hines-Allen and Shakira Austin — all scored 13. The Mystics have won three straight and five of six.

Teaira McCowan had season highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead Dallas (12-16), which fell to 5-9 at home. Arike Ogunbowale added 19 points and six boards, while Allisha Gray scored 12.

The Mystics used a 32-point second quarter to turn a 24-14 lead into a 56-36 advantage at halftime.

Washington shot 56.4% from the floor, including 9 of 15 from 3-point range, but struggled at the foul line (16 of 24).

The Wings shot 38,4 and sank just 16 of 27 free throws (59,3%).

Powers scores 25, Lynx cruise past Dream

Aerial Powers scored 25 points and the Minnesota Lynx started fast and cruised to a 92-85 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Thursday night.

Moriah Jefferson finished with 14 points and seven assists for Minnesota (11-19), which ended a three-game skid. Sylvia Fowles had 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Kayla McBride scored 11.

Powers had 10 points and Minnesota shot 65.6% (21 of 32), including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, to take a 49-29 lead at halftime. Atlanta (12-17) shot 34.4% and made just 2 of 9 from distance before intermission.

Tiffany Hayes scored 24 to pace the Dream, Rhyne Howard added 18 points, while Cheyenne Parker scored 14 with six rebounds.

Atlanta outscored the Lynx 40-27 in the final quarter.

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