for this game

Bird scores 21 as Storm clinch playoff berth

Aug 28, 2009 - 5:03 AM SEATTLE(AP) -- Sue Bird understands what a milestone it is to reach the playoffs six consecutive years. She also knows what it's like to be eliminated in the first round four straight times.

"It's still just making the playoffs," Bird said Thursday night. "Three other teams are going to do it in our conference. Now that we're in, we want to get good position and hopefully make some more noise than we have in the past in the playoffs."

Bird scored 21 points to lead five players in double figures, and the Storm beat the Connecticut Sun 86-74 to lock up another trip to the postseason.

Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson had 17 points apiece for the Storm (17-11), who trail only Phoenix in the Western Conference. Tanisha Wright added 15 points and Camille Little 13.

Bird also had seven assists, as the Storm won their fourth straight game and ended a seven-game losing streak to the Sun covering the last four years.

Lindsay Whalen had 18 points for Connecticut (14-14), which never led in the game. The Sun missed an opportunity to move into a tie for second with Atlanta in the Eastern Conference.

The Storm led 69-61 about midway through the fourth quarter before the Sun rolled off seven straight points. Jackson responded with five straight points to help Seattle hang on.

"Lauren said she wanted the ball on the block," Bird said. "Two straight times we ran plays to get Lauren the ball on the block. She scored and got a three-point play and that pretty much put us ahead."

Connecticut coach Mike Thibault remembered that play well.

"The three-point play that Lauren got late, that was a big, big play," he said. "We had a chance and couldn't get a stop when we needed one."

Jackson, bothered by a bad back, had the option to sit out the game.

"She was struggling," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "We can't even hardly get her on the floor until game time. She's just an ultimate competitor. We gave her the option whether to play or sit out, and she didn't even hesitate that she was going to play."

Jackson, who had four blocked shots, received ice treatment on her back after the game and was unavailable for comment.

"This is the most I've seen her hurting, but she's going to play," Bird said. "On that moving screen foul, she got knocked down pretty hard. I think her eyeballs were a little watery. Her back really hurts, but no way was she coming out."

Connecticut played its fifth straight game without leading scorer Asjha Jones, who has a sore left Achilles' tendon and is expected to be out for two more weeks.

"Of course we're going to miss Asjha, but we have to play with who's here and focus on that," Whalen said. "There's nothing you can do but play hard with who you've got."

Bird had 11 points to help the Storm take a 10-point advantage in the second quarter. The Sun cut the deficit to 36-32 by halftime.

The Storm had lost three straight at home and seven in a row overall to Connecticut since a 95-86 victory on June 22, 2005, at Seattle.