Seattle Storm fans can probably remember times when center Lauren Jackson went out due to injury leaving point guard Sue Bird to step up an d carry the bulk of the scoring load.
Each time it happens, Bird shows us just how dominant a player she can be when she's focused on creating shots for herself a bit more often than normal.
In tonight's rematch against the Minnesota Lynx, Bird is likely to once again be looked to as the focal point for the Storm as Lauren Jackson is out after a hip injury during Tuesday's road win against the Tulsa Shock.
Yet with or without Jackson, carrying the bulk of the scoring load is something Bird has been doing all season. She currently leads the team with a career-high 17 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting as well as a team-high 5.3 assists. Even in their worse games this season - such as their first meeting against the Lynx or their Father's Day loss against the Sparks - Bird has often been a bright spot.
Despite the hype around rookie phenom Maya Moore, the Lynx come into the game with a few veterans of their own leading the way, which could create some problems for the Storm tonight without Jackson. Forward Rebekkah Brunson is averaging career-highs in points and rebounds with 14.5 points and 13.3 rebound while shooting a career-high 61.4 percent from the field.
Bob Corwin of Full Court Court Press mentioned Brunson's outstanding season in a recent article about the Lynx's early-season success.
The "Lucky Lynx?" - Part II: Maya Mania Infuses Minnesota — Full Court Press
Rebekkah Brunson has been one of the better power players in the league for a number of years. Her shot can be flat at times but she is a powerful leaper willing to be very physical at grabbing rebounds though she is not as great an initial defensive presence in the lane. The Georgetown product had her best WNBA rebounding year (10.3 rebounds per game) in 2010. So far she is off to another strong start averaging double digit boards in 2011.
In addition to Brunson, Lindsay Whalen is off to an outstanding start of her own in 2011, dishing out a career-high 6.5 assist to her talented Lynx teammates as well as averaging 13.2 points per game, her most since 2007. But most of what she brings is the intangibles - perfectly controlling the tempo of the Lynx's high-powered attack, choosing when to fly up and down the court and when to settle down in the halfcourt.
If the Storm are to even challenge the Lynx tonight, it will begin with containing Brunson, something they did in the second half of their first meeting after they got down by 26 points at halftime.
But if they're going to win, it will be up to Bird to win that matchup with Whalen on both ends of the floor, which will be no less difficult a task.