Storm's Sue Bird to play in face mask after suffering broken nose

SEATTLE -- Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird will play in Tuesday's deciding Game 5 of their semifinal series against the Phoenix Mercury with a face mask to protect the broken nose she suffered during the second quarter of Sunday's Game 4 loss in Phoenix, the team announced Monday.

"I got all the tests done earlier today, like a CT scan, that showed nothing more than a broken nose, which is the good news," Bird said after practicing Monday wearing the mask. "Obviously there are other concerns they have to go down the list and check off. I didn't really feel concerned; I didn't have any other symptoms or pain from anything else. They just had to check that off, and once that was done, it's about wearing that mask and going from there."

Playing with a face mask is familiar territory for Bird, who has dealt with four broken noses in the past, including one case when she re-broke an old injury. She joked that teammate Breanna Stewart, whose elbow Bird collided with on defense, joined an elite list of players who have caused those injuries. In the past, they've included another Storm MVP (Lauren Jackson) and a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer (Teresa Edwards of the Minnesota Lynx).

This is the third time out of four during Bird's Seattle career -- as noted by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel, Bird's most recent broken nose came in 2012 while playing for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason -- that the injury has happened during the playoffs.

In fact, Bird won her first WNBA championship with the Storm in 2004 wearing the mask after she suffered a broken nose in Game 2 of the team's first-round win over the Lynx.

"The mask can be an adjustment at times," said Bird, the league's all-time leader in assists as well as games and minutes played. "It cuts off some of your vision; obviously, that's one of the big parts of my game. The good news, I guess, is I do have experience with it, so I have to get acclimated as quickly as possible and go from there. You've got to make due. Mind over matter."

Bird had hoped to return to Sunday's game wearing the face mask, which Seattle takes on the road. However, the nose wouldn't stop bleeding in time, so she spent the second half watching from the sidelines as Phoenix rallied from a deficit as large as 17 in the first half to win 86-84 on Brittney Griner's putback in the closing seconds.

"I wanted to get back out there," Bird said. "I think we had them in a good spot. We were in a good place the way we had started the game. We were kind of playing the way we want to play. I don't think that if I played, it guarantees a win. I don't think that at all because I think Phoenix is a team that you know is never going to go away, so they probably would have been a run. But I just think as a competitor, as somebody who has been in those situations, I would have loved to be out there for myself, for my team."

Now the series returns to Seattle for Game 5 with a spot in the WNBA Finals on the line. And the Storm's coach feels much better about his team's chances with Bird on the court.

"We worked all year to get home-court advantage," said Dan Hughes. "Now to get her back in the lineup, obviously that's a plus."