Bird flu doesn't stop Storm

Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, right, defends Phoenix Mercury's Samantha Prahalis in the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Seattle. Bird left the game later in the half with a stomach flu. The Storm won 72-58. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, right, defends Phoenix Mercury's Samantha Prahalis in the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Seattle. Bird left the game later in the half with a stomach flu. The Storm won 72-58. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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SEATTLE — Storm point guard Sue Bird battled Australia, France and jet lag, but she couldn’t defeat a growing bout of stomach flu Thursday.

Seattle began the second part of its WNBA season with a pregame celebration to honor Bird for winning a third Olympic gold medal for the United States. She flashed the coveted neckpiece to the crowd and then started against the Phoenix Mercury.

With visible sniffling, huffing and puffing, she left the game shortly into the second quarter, but remained on the bench. During halftime, teammates saw her make the gesture of an upset stomach, rushing to the locker-room restroom.

As Bird dealt with a turning stomach, the Storm spun Phoenix’s head in a 72-58 victory at KeyArena.

“Sue’s really had a very, very emotional three or four weeks (with) travel and a lot of stress,” Storm coach Brian Agler said.

After winning gold last Saturday and partying until the next morning, Bird traveled to Seattle to participate in a Storm practice Tuesday.

“I think it’s just worn her down,” Agler continued. “She just needs to relax and get healthy and feel better. It’ll be her decision (if she plays Saturday).”

Agler used two quick timeouts in the second quarter to give his team time to collect itself. The Storm fell behind by five points when Bird left.

However, forward Camille Little said the players took over the discussion in the huddle. The Storm wasn’t playing well against the Mercury’s zone defense and was out-rebounded in the game 34-29 overall.

Tanisha Wright and Svetlana Abrosimova filled the void in the backcourt.

The duo, along with strong play from the reserves, pieced together a 15-5 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 34-29 lead into the break.

A splashy play from Katie Smith to Abrosimova to forward Alysha Clark in the third quarter gave the Storm a 51-40 lead.

“That’s what teammates are for, you’ve got to pick up where there’s a little bit of slack,” said Wright, who finished with 10 points, eight assists and five steals. “We’ve been doing that all year. It’s just part of the game.

“The fact that we (non-Olympians) have all been here practicing together for the past couple of weeks really helped us because we have a feel for one another. And it’s something we’ve talked about as well ... We’ve been practicing, so we need to start putting it into play.”

Little led the Storm with 17 points and six rebounds. Rookie guard Samantha Prahalis led Phoenix with 15 points.

Both teams were down players. In addition to Bird, the Storm is missing Ann Wauters (Achilles) and Lauren Jackson (Olympics).

Phoenix traveled with eight players, one a seven-day signee in guard Dymond Simon.

Mercury posts Candace Dupree and Charde Houston underwent knee surgeries in July.

Guard Alexis Gray-Lawson sprained her ankle this week in practice. Three-time Olympian Diana Taurasi has not joined the team after arriving late from London.

Once the Storm improved its defensive pressure, the Mercury (4-16) was stifled, committing 20 turnovers and shooting 37.9 percent.

The Storm (10-10) continues its seven-game homestand against Los Angeles on Saturday.

“Trying to position ourselves for a better spot in the playoffs is going to be huge,” Smith said.

Seattle owns the fourth and final berth in the Western Conference after a 1-7 start. “We’re still trying to find our identity.”

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