TULSA, Okla. (AP)—Seattle coach Brian Agler noticed the upsets Tulsa posted against Los Angeles and Connecticut last month and was adamant the Storm wouldn’t succumb to the same fate.
He really didn’t need to worry.
Point guard Sue Bird, whom Agler calls “the best point guard in the world,” buried a 3-pointer with 37.4 seconds remaining and Seattle staved off the upset with a 78-72 victory in front of 6,117 fans at the BOK Center Friday night.
“It’s in my contract, he has to say that,” Bird joked after the game. “Seriously, it was a very scrappy game. We had the lead and Tulsa made a run to cut it to four points. It was a pressure situation.
“I came off a pick-and-roll, got a good look and shot the ball. I knew once it went in, it was probably going to seal the game. Tulsa was relentless and that shot was the dagger. Tulsa has improved a ton.”
Bird finished with 21 points.
“That’s Sue Bird,” Agler said. “I’ve seen her do this so much, but still I’m amazed at how clutch she is. She’s done this multiple times. She took the game over when she had to and that’s the difference in her.”
Agler had warned his team that Tulsa (3-27) wouldn’t roll over.
“We played Tulsa at home earlier in August, the game before they won two straight,” he said. “I told my team (Tulsa) isn’t going to make the playoffs, but they were going to impact the playoffs. They have impacted the playoffs and I don’t think they are quite done yet.”
“We were forced to play without Latta,” Shock interim coach Teresa Edwards said. “It took our rhythm off. I thought Sheryl was awesome, but (playing point guard) took away from her scoring.”
The 40-year-old Swoopes played 36:49 and suffered had only one turnover at the point position.
“I had to do it. We found out at shootaround that Ivory couldn’t play,” Swoopes said. “I’ve never played point guard. I just tried to get the ball to the player who was hot. In the first half it was Jennifer (Lacy) and Amber (Holt). In the second half, it was Tiff (Tiffany Jackson).”
Tulsa jumped out to an early lead on five 3-pointers in the first period to lead the 2010 WNBA champions 23-17.
But the Storm (18-13) rallied with a 13-0 run in the second period and never trailed again.
The Storm have won five of its last six games since the 6-foot-6 Jackson returned to the lineup.
“I don’t know that we will play Lauren (Saturday in San Antonio),” Agler said.
Tulsa trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter but mounted a furious rally that pulled the Shock within 74-70 with 1:55 to play.
“Tulsa is a tough matchup for us,” Agler said. “With as good a team as we had last year, we got beat here. They’re a good team. They just traded away some good players and it’s going to take them longer to build their franchise.”