'Missing piece' Sue Bird helps Storm to win after 5-game absence

Point guard Sue Bird returned to the Seattle Storm lineup on Wednesday and helped lead the WNBA's top team to a blowout victory over the Atlanta Dream in Bradenton, Florida.

Bird had missed the past five games with a bone bruise in her left knee.

Bird played more than 21 minutes, finishing with nine points and seven assists in the 100-63 decision. She made three of the Storm's 18 3-pointers, a team total that ties a WNBA single-game record; Washington had 18 3s last season against Indiana.

The Storm lead the league at 8-1.

"You know, it was the missing piece; our team is complete again," the Storm's Alysha Clark said of Bird being back. "She's our floor general. Just to have her out there with us was a boost in itself."

Even on a quiet night offensively from star Breanna Stewart, who had seven points, the Storm dominated the Dream. Atlanta is without rookie standout Chennedy Carter, who has an ankle injury.

As a team, Seattle shot 56.5% from the field. Jewell Loyd and Sami Whitcomb, who combined were 10-of-14 from 3-point range, each had 20 points for Seattle. Clark had 16 points.

Bird was injured July 28 in Seattle's victory over Minnesota, but she thought she could play through it. Bird logged about 20 minutes in Seattle's loss to Washington on July 30. That was the only loss this season for the Storm.

After an MRI, Bird opted to sit out to let her knee heal, and the Storm won the five games she was sidelined. Jordin Canada has handled most of the point guard duties for Seattle, as she did last year, when Bird was out all season after knee surgery.

Bird, 39, is playing in her 17th WNBA season. And even though the Storm didn't lose while Bird was sidelined, Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg thought she made an immediate impact upon her return.

"We're just so much better offensively with her out there," he said. "Not only can she shoot it, but she finds people. She is just so good in the running game, and that to me is really encouraging going forward. With Sue, and Jordin backing her up, we can continue to really try to push the pace and put a lot of pressure on teams for 40 minutes."