Lauren Jackson shows why she's the best player in WNBA
Lauren Jackson showed why she's the best women's basketball player in the world Thursday night, especially in the first half. She took control early of an uneven, foul-prone game and led the Storm to an 82-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Proclaimed the best once more, Lauren Jackson returned to the throne with refreshing nonchalance. She reacted the way you might after someone says, "Good morning." She smiled wide, uttered a few nice words and tried to hustle back to her day.
The moment demanded more; she had just been named the WNBA MVP for a third time. But Jackson had little time to revel.
"There's a game to play," she said. "Gotta go."
Upon request to stick around, the Storm forward lingered a few more minutes before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals and answered questions. She called the award "probably the most special" of her career because it's a reflection of this wonderful Storm season. Still, the MVP was preoccupied with chasing team excellence.
And that's a good thing. There's no better way to celebrate than watching Jackson dominate another game.
The Australian superstar showed why she's the best women's basketball player in the world Thursday night, especially in the first half. She took control early of an uneven, foul-prone game and led the Storm to an 82-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury. With a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three series, the Storm stands one victory from the WNBA Finals.
Jackson scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a virtuoso first-half performance. She finished the game with 23 points and 17 rebounds. The boards were a Storm playoff record. As a result, the Storm never trailed after opening the game on a 17-3 run, but it couldn't put the game away and spent most of the contest staving off Mercury rallies.
If not for Jackson, maybe it would've fallen apart. But her entire game was on display Thursday. She made three three-pointers, releasing the ball with her fluid motion, shooting the long ball almost like it's an afterthought. She scored in the post. She made hustle plays. She tracked down rebounds that had bounded out of her area.
The laid-back forward even showed off her competitive fire. She received a technical foul late in the second quarter after complaining about a foul that wasn't called.
The teams combined for 42 fouls. It was that kind of game — frustrating, physical. Both teams shot under 40 percent. The Storm needed its star post player to deliver not only with her usual elegant play, but with a grimy toughness, too. And Jackson came through in a big way.
"She really just focused on getting to the boards," said All-Star forward Swin Cash, who scored eight points but missed seven of her eight field-goal attempts. "She was just focused, locked in."
During the morning shoot-around, Jackson talked to her teammates about her MVP award. She wanted to make sure they understand she shares the honor with them. The players felt the sincerity in their best player's voice and appreciated that she included them.
"That meant a lot," Cash said. "When your best player is talking like that, getting you motivated, showing her humility, you have to fall in line."
Her temperament also helped soothe concerns that coach Brian Agler had about the day's festivities. Agler, who was also presented with the league's Coach of the Year award Thursday, was worried that the night's pageantry might be a distraction.
He had a long conversation with Jackson earlier in the day to determine how she wanted to handle the MVP presentation. She told him she wanted to accept it before he accepted his award during the pregame, so that she'd have longer to prepare for the game. The WNBA obliged.
Then, just before tipoff, Jackson and Agler both hoisted their trophies for the sellout crowd of 9,686 to celebrate, and when the game started, the Storm was as focused as always.
"I didn't say anything to anybody, but I was extremely concerned," Agler said. "Our team was well aware of what was going on. It didn't affect us too much."
It didn't affect them at all, really, as that 17-3 opening run indicated. From there, Jackson took over, using her versatility, playing tough, being an MVP.
Afterward, she explained what the award meant to her. But, typical Jackson, there wasn't an ounce of bravado.
"It means a lot to win it, to be able to get it in front of you guys," Jackson said to the crowd afterward. "But winning a championship would mean a whole lot more."
She's four wins from doing just that.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.