BY SPNW Staff 06:30AM 09/30/2012

All eyes on Bird to keep Storm season alive

No one, including the star herself, is willing to offer up how physically limited Sue Bird will be when she takes the KeyArena court at 6 p.m. Sunday for what could be the Storm’s final game of 2012.

But it’s unlikely she’s any healthier than Friday, when she had eight points and five turnovers in the Storm’s 78-70 loss in Minneapolis that made the Sunday game against the defending champion Lynx do or die for Seattle’s WNBA season.

“Sue is a competitor and I can guarantee you that whatever you see, she is giving everything she’s got,” head coach Brian Agler said defensively after the game Friday. “I never, ever question her effort or what she can give. Whatever she possibly can give, she has given. She had a couple of tough turnovers but that is going to happen. I have a feeling, knowing Sue, she will respond and bounce back on Sunday.”

Bird is staying mum about how much her strained hip flexor muscle is bothering her. What she will discuss is how the Lynx have made her basketball life tougher by putting Seimone Augustus on her.

The Minnesota star is six feet, and it’s having an impact on the 5-9 Bird.

“I feel you could ask any player — when a taller (defender) is on them, it makes things a little bit more difficult,” said Bird after practice Saturday. “I’ve been seeing that a lot in the last couple of weeks, where people put their (taller guard) on me. It changes some things.”

Friday was an off night for Bird, who missed five of eight shots and finished the game on the bench as Storm reserves made a run at a Lynx lead that ballooned to 17 points in the third quarter.

“They’ve done that the last couple of times we’ve played,” Agler said. “We have the ability to put Sue in different spots, so we’ll take a look at that and see where we feel like it can benefit us.”

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve isn’t like to change things Sunday.

“Seimone did everything that we hoped she would do,” she said Friday. “It was a big challenge for her and a little bit of a departure for us. Often when we play Seattle, we’ll have Lindsay (Whalen) guarding Bird. We tried it in the game in Seattle, for Seimone to start getting some reps in guarding Bird. I thought Seimone was ready to play on that side of the ball.

“Offensively, she took a little bit to get going but then took that string of shots and she got a little bounce going. It was really good for her. Somehow our players don’t get recognized for MVP performances. This is that time of year when everyone else goes for the consolation prizes and we go for the big one. Seimone played like an MVP tonight.”

Lauren Jackson, who missed all four regular-season games against Minnesota,  looked a lot like her old self in the first half Friday, scoring 11 points, but Minnesota found a way to shut her down too, allowing her just a free throw in the second half.

“I didn’t get the looks I was getting in the first half,” Jackson said. “They changed their defense up. We definitely have to look at how we’re going to combat that next game.”

Minnesota is trying to become the first back-to-back champion since Los Angeles accomplished the feat in the 2001-2002 seasons. The Houston Comets won the league’s first four titles from 1997-2000. The Storm is trying to force Game 3 back in Minneapolis Tuesday.