Mercury handles Storm's Jackson in Game 1
Seattle Times staff reporter
|Storm vs. Mercury|
|Phoenix leads best-of-three playoff series 1-0.|
|1||Phoenix 101, at Seattle 84|
|2||Sunday||Phoenix||4 p.m., ESPN2|
|3*||Tuesday||Phoenix||6 p.m., ESPN2|
Boxed in again, Lauren Jackson still didn't have any solutions.
There was no one to defer to as reporters cornered her in the Storm locker room following a 101-84 loss in Game 1 of her team's best-of-three opening-round playoff series against top-seeded Phoenix.
And there were no explanations for why a player so dominant could be made so ineffective against a Mercury team that didn't do anything different from games in the regular-season series, won 2-1 by the Storm.
Phoenix ran its same box-and-one defense, a strategy in which guard Diana Taurasi trails the Australian closer than a kangaroo's tail -- bumping, grabbing and pushing the Aussie with every step. Nearby is a help defender, and nowhere during the second quarter was the basketball reaching Jackson's grasp. Odd, since she's the league's leading scorer (23.8) and arguably the sole reason Seattle made it to the postseason.
Jackson was held without a shot attempt in the second quarter, and didn't attempt one until making a three-pointer with 5:47 left in the third. Only it was too little, too late for the Storm, which trailed 56-41 at that point and tumbled to a 67-45 deficit minutes later.
After a week of preparation, it was unimaginable the playoffs would begin like this for Seattle.
"I didn't realize I didn't have any shot attempts until after the game," said Jackson, who was 5 for 10 from the field for 16 points. "I didn't feel disconnected at all, but offensively as a team, we couldn't get our group going. And then our turnovers."
The score was tied at 25 after Storm reserve Wendy Palmer hit a three-pointer 50 seconds into the second quarter. The Mercury then used an 18-4 run to break open the game open.
The Phoenix sideline looked like a mosh pit, with players chest-bumping and high-fiving while spilling drinks onto the court. Taurasi even turned to the crowd and flashed her tongue like Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss.
"I couldn't have imagined that," said Phoenix coach Paul Westhead. "We tried to stay focused on keeping the ball away from [Jackson]. We did a better job tonight than we have in the past of not letting her get to the rim and get some second shots. Our defense played that better, but I can't imagine continuing that for another 40 minutes."
Early turnovers made the Storm hesitant to throw the ball inside to Jackson, even though she might have been able to draw fouls on Taurasi. The Mercury scored nine points in the first quarter on seven Storm turnovers, three from point guard Sue Bird.
Seattle had 18 turnovers overall for 32 Phoenix points.
"We were trying to get the ball inside, trying to do things against the zone," Bird said. "We talked about turnovers because when we turn it over, that's when they run it. Every time coming down the court, I'm thinking of plays [we can run] to get [Jackson] the ball. They did a great job of taking it away and we have to do a better job of getting her some shots because 10 field-goal attempts is not good enough."
The win was Phoenix's first postseason victory since 1998 against Houston in the WNBA Finals, which the Mercury eventually lost.
The series moves to Phoenix's US Airways Center on Sunday for Game 2. The Mercury was 12-5 at home during the regular season while the Storm was 5-12 on the road.
Seattle hadn't lost a Game 1 in the opening round since 2002, when it was swept by Los Angeles. But the past two seasons the Storm won the opener only to lose the final two.
"We'll see if we can turn it around this year," Storm coach Anne Donovan said.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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