Storm opens title defense with 78-71 victory over Phoenix
Lauren Jackson is held without a field goal in the first half, but the bench steps up as Storm wins first game of the season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Saturday was just another time that Lauren Jackson was held without a field goal in a half, and another time it didn't matter.
Flanked by a roster that accounts for a combined 15 WNBA championships, Jackson's teammates stepped up to help the Storm pull out a 78-71 win against the Phoenix Mercury at KeyArena on Saturday in both teams' season opener.
After the team received its 2010 title rings before the opening tipoff, the Storm reserves outscored the Phoenix bench 19-4 before 11,548 fans. Katie Smith, acquired via a three-team trade, and Le'coe Willingham came off the bench to score eight and nine points, respectively.
"Now, more so with Katie, there's not pressure on me to make baskets or shoot the ball because we've got so many other players that can do it," said Jackson, who finished with 15 points to move into third place on the WNBA's all-time scoring list with 5,772 points, surpassing Smith's 5,768 points.
"I wish we had more time to celebrate last year because we were in and out and gone (to the FIBA World Championships) and the moment was gone," Jackson continued. "Everyone is saying 'focus on 2011' and I understand that being an athlete and I'm trying to, but it was awesome."
The Storm won its 18th consecutive regular-season game at KeyArena. The last time Seattle lost at the Key was to Phoenix in September 2009. But the Storm has won the past eight games against the Mercury, including the postseason.
Jackson's first basket, a 5-foot jumper with 8:13 remaining in the third quarter, ignited an 8-0 run to give the Storm a 48-35 lead after a Swin Cash score.
Jackson, the reigning MVP, was 3 for 5 from the field for seven points as Seattle outscored Phoenix 20-12 in the third quarter.
But the Storm's dominance didn't last. The Storm let a 19-point lead dwindle to five after a jump shot by Phoenix All-Star Diana Taurasi with 16.1 seconds remaining in the game. Taurasi tried to foul quickly after that but no call was made and the Storm hung on. Taurasi, who hasn't played since being suspended from her Turkish league last winter for a wrongful doping allegation, scored 11 of her game-high 31 points in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We didn't address it afterwards because I wanted them to enjoy today, but we didn't finish off this game very well and we're better than that," Storm coach Brian Agler said. "It's just a matter of communicating and we have to understand what we want to get accomplished.
"Diana Taurasi is a great player. She can make the game look so easy. By herself she can keep her team in the game."
The last time Jackson was held without a field goal in the opening half was in a win against Atlanta last August. Agler benched the starters for their lack of effort in the road game.
In the second half against the Dream, Jackson's six points in a decisive 8-0 run helped the Storm win 80-70 to clinch the overall top seed in the postseason.
Afterward, the Australian proclaimed it the "weirdest game of my life." The only pressure Saturday was the home winning streak and Seattle's depth made sure it continued.
"It's great when we sub and the game doesn't change," said Storm forward Camille Little, who finished with a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds. "That's a big, big thing for our team."
• Little suffered a right knee sprain and is listed as day to day.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Phoenix||16||19||12||24 — 71|
|Seattle||18||22||20||18 — 78|
|Rising over Phoenix|
|The Storm has won its past eight games against the Mercury, including the WNBA playoffs.|
|Saturday||78-71||Camille Little (18)|
|Sept. 5, 2010**||91-88*||Swin Cash (28)|
|Sept. 2, 2010||82-74*||Lauren Jackson (23)|
|Aug. 20, 2010**||78-73||Cash (13)|
|July 27, 2010||91-85||Jackson (33)|
|July 14, 2010**||111-107 (3OT)||Jackson (31)|
|June 6, 2010||97-74||Cash, Jackson, Little (16)|
|May 22, 2010**||95 — 89 (OT)||Jackson (25)|
|* playoff game; ** at Phoenix|
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog
Sign up for our newsletter
Receive weekly recipes, cooking tips and news in your inbox!