Storm's Bird at home with ball in hand and game on the line

Storm's Bird at home with ball in hand and game on the line
SEATTLE (AP) - Whether it was the clincher in the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix or hitting a 16-footer to give Seattle the lead in the final moments in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Sue Bird feels completely at ease with the ball in her hands and the seconds ticking away.

She's been doing it since she was a kid.

"For me at an early age that was just something that happened. Whether it's AAU or high school, into college, now WNBA it's just something that - situations I was put in at a very early age so it's kind of - I don't know, you get confident the more you do things and the more successful you are at them," Bird said after Seattle's 79-77 win over Atlanta on Sunday. "I think at this point in my career, it's something that I enjoy."

Bird's jumper to give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the best of five series with the Dream was her second game winner in a week. In the conference finals against Phoenix, Bird drilled a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left to give the Storm a 91-88 win and send them to the league finals for the first time since 2004.

She topped herself on Sunday.

Tied at 77, Bird worked off a pick-and-roll from league MVP Lauren Jackson and hit the free-throw line jumper. Angel McCoughtry had a last-second try for the Dream, but her long 3-pointer from the left side bounced off the rim.

"I think Sue really has a calm disposition and it helps in tight situations, you know, she's the one who has the ability to be in the fray and keep an open mind and take what's given to her," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "I think a lot of times people, most people in those situations, they get one thing in their mind and they're going to do that no matter what happens instead of coming through, coming off the play and making a read.

"It's not like you have a lot of time to make a read, but when you have the ability to play with an open mind like Sue does, usually you're going to make good decisions."

Bird stole the spotlight at the end with her winning basket, but her coach was irritated Monday when Bird was not named to the all-WNBA first team. Bird was a second-team selection, while Jackson was named to the first team.

"Obviously there's a lot of good players in this league. There's no question in my mind that Sue Bird does her job and plays her position better than anybody else," Agler said. "Now, there's a lot of people who evaluate what a good job is and what is not. I think a lot of times people look at numbers. To me as a coach and knowing who we're talking about there is no one who does it better. She makes people around her play at their maximum."

Atlanta's concern Monday was over the condition of McCoughtry. The Dream star wore a Band-Aid on her forehead Monday, the result of three stitches after a collision early in the fourth quarter. Afterward, McCoughtry was feeling ill, but the team said she did not have a concussion.

Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said McCoughtry would be ready for Game 2.

"She'll be ready to go. She's got a little headache, but she'll be ready to go. She's tough," Meadors said. "I think (her) being out of the game for almost 20 minutes probably affected the outcome a little bit for us."

The Dream were beaten by 18 and 10 in their two regular season matchups with Seattle. The narrow margin of Game 1 gave Atlanta a bit of confidence, especially considering how much McCoughtry was on the bench.

Atlanta's leading scorer - averaging 28 points in the playoffs entering the finals - played just 21 minutes, saddled with foul trouble early, before her collision with Seattle's Jana Vesela in the fourth quarter. She finished with 19 points in her limited action.

"We were very balanced. This is what you play for. You play 39 minutes to have a chance to win it at the end. I think we had a chance," Meadors said. "When they were up seven to nine points and widened that gap a bit I thought that maybe they would take off but they didn't. We came right back at them. I was real pleased at the balance we did have without Angel."