4:00 PM ET, June 30, 2012
Following an awful start, the Seattle Storm are playing like title contenders.Now they welcome back a key player from their championship run two years ago.Svetlana Abrosimova makes her return to the Storm on Saturday as they go for a sixth consecutive victory in a matchup with the stumbling New York Liberty.Seattle (6-7) opened a four-game road trip Tuesday with a 79-71 win in Washington, continuing to play well even without Lauren Jackson as the star center prepares for the Olympics with the Australian national team.A different familiar face will be back on the Storm bench Saturday with Abrosimova expected to suit up, one day after signing a free-agent deal with the team she helped win the 2010 WNBA title. Abrosimova averaged 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds that year."She was part of our championship team in 2010 -- played a really big role on that team," coach and general manager Brian Agler said. "She's an aggressive defensive player; she's a risk-taker. I don't think that's so bad for our team right now."Abrosimova opted to return to the WNBA after being left off the Russian roster for the Olympics. She spent the past two seasons playing in the Russian Premier League, including alongside Storm teammate Sue Bird during the 2011-12 season.Bird scored 18 of her 25 points in the second half Tuesday, helping Seattle to a fifth straight win after opening the season 1-7. The Storm now seek their longest winning streak since closing 2010 with 10 consecutive victories en route to their title."When you're in a comfort zone as a team, you're able to play instinctively, not think too much," said Bird, averaging 18.2 points on 56.7 percent shooting during this win streak. "Early in the season we were a new group, I think there was a lot of thought going on. Now, we're just out there playing."The Liberty (4-9) aren't finding the same kind of flow, losing two straight and four of five. They've averaged 65.2 points in the last five games, compared to 74.5 through their first eight.New York has been idle since committing 26 turnovers Sunday in a 74-64 home loss to Atlanta."We just got to learn to be consistent," said Cappie Pondexter, who was 4 of 17 from the field with seven turnovers. "It's kind of up and down, it's kind of hard for us to get it together."Pondexter is averaging a team-leading 18.7 points but has been held below 15 in three of the past four games.This is the first meeting of the season between these teams. Seattle has won seven of the past eight but lost in its most recent visit to Newark, 58-56 on Aug. 9.