PHOENIX — Word got back to Phoenix quicker than its fast-paced offense.
Storm forward Lauren Jackson called her night against the Mercury defense the "easiest 35 points I ever scored in my whole life."
Standing around reporters in the corridors of U.S. Airways Center after her team's 94-81 home-opening loss to Seattle on Thursday, Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi was stunned when told of the comment.
"Is that what she said?" Taurasi asked a reporter. "Well, good for Lauren. I'm glad she had a good time tonight. Maybe she can get me some dinner then. That's really tough. She's gonna get 35, she's a great player, but you never want it to be easy. If anything, you know, you want somebody to work for it."
What was omitted from Jackson's comments was context, of course.
The Storm (2-1) returned starter Janell Burse (shoulder) to the lineup, giving it a clear advantage inside that was apparent from the opening tip, when Jackson easily tipped the jump ball against center Kamila Vodichkova to Sue Bird to start the Storm's dominance. Once Burse sank a swooping turnaround jump shot late in the first quarter, the Storm clicked.
Seattle outscored Phoenix 11-3 in the final 1:54 of the quarter to build a 27-19 lead and never lost control.
"I had some little bumps to smooth out at the beginning of the game," Burse said. "I started getting into it more the more that I was out there. Once I made my first shot, it gave me a little momentum."
Jackson, looking to redeem a nightmarish game against Houston on Tuesday when she took only 13 shots in a 25-point loss, seemingly shot from every angle Thursday to finish with her career high on 13-for-22 shooting in 26 minutes.
Burse also played 26 minutes and had 14 points with six rebounds. Veteran forward Wendy Palmer added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Vodichkova, conversely, was limited to 10 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.
"I didn't get double-teamed once, so it was easy," Jackson said. "We've got so many good post players, they can't afford to double-team and leave someone open. I've been so up and down over the years, I could have very well missed those shots, but it was one of those nights where we came off the Houston loss and knew we had to win."
The Storm expected the Mercury (0-2) to play its frantic offense and pressing defense, preparing for it in practice, but it was Seattle that left the home team on its behind, picking court lint off its rears. Vodichkova was the main victim, trying to protect the paint solo.
The Mercury had guard Cappie Pondexter (21 points) to complement Taurasi (28 points), finding open looks against Storm guard Betty Lennox, but it didn't mean much without an inside game.
By the time Burse hit a layin with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Storm led 92-72, its largest lead of the game. Yet Storm coach Anne Donovan wasn't comfortable with the point differential.
Six shot attempts were taken in the final minute of the first quarter and Taurasi sneaked in a three-pointer before the halftime buzzer, so Donovan knew Phoenix could rack up points quickly for a comeback. The Mercury didn't, however, even with the Storm reserves not scoring in the final four minutes to miss an opportunity to surpass a franchise record in points (95).
"We got back to more of who we are," Donovan said. "This is a good bounce back from Houston."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
|One for the books|
|Lauren Jackson scored a career-high 35 points Thursday against the Phoenix Mercury. A look at her performance:|
|Previous high: 34 points vs. L.A. Sparks on Aug. 6, 2003.|