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STORM 82, MONARCHS 62

Broken nose doesn't slow Storm's Bird

SEATTLE -- Sue Bird had 10 points and 14 assists a day after having surgery on her broken nose, and the Seattle Storm advanced to the WNBA Finals with an 82-62 win over the Sacramento Monarchs in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals last night.

Bird broke her nose in the Storm's first-round series against Minnesota. She underwent closed reduction surgery Monday morning.

Her 14 assists were a playoff record, breaking the old mark of 12, which was reached by three players.

Lauren Jackson added 27 points for Seattle, which won Games 2 and 3 on its home court after dropping the opener in Sacramento.

Seattle will travel to face Eastern Conference champion Connecticut in Game 1 Friday night.

The Storm will host Game 2 and -- if necessary -- Game 3.

The Storm led, 44-43, in the second half before scoring 18 straight points. Seattle missed only two shots and hit four 3-pointers during the run.

Sacramento went nearly eight minutes without a basket, finally ending the run on a jumper by Tangela Smith with 6:51 left.

Yolanda Griffith led the Monarchs with 13 points, but Sacramento lost Game 3 of the conference finals for the third time.

The Monarchs lost Game 3 to Los Angeles in 2001 and 2003.

Seattle became the first Western Conference team other than Houston or Los Angeles to reach the WNBA Finals.

Bird said she had no ill affects from the 15-minute procedure to straighten the break -- and it showed on the court. She played 33 minutes and was 4 for 7 from the field.

Bird had seven assists in the first half for Seattle, which shot 54 percent for the game.

Seattle pushed its lead to 10 early in the second half, but Sacramento quickly ran off 9 of the next 12 points to make it 44-43.

Storm reserve Alicia Thompson scored 7 straight points to make it 51-43 with 11:28 remaining.

Bird's jumper with the shot clock running down put the lead back at 10, and Jackson followed with a 3-pointer.

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