- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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Lauren Jackson's back is feeling slightly better and Seattle's All-Star post will start tonight's first-round playoff game against Houston, Storm coach Anne Donovan said Tuesday afternoon.
Jackson, who suffered a lower back sprain in Saturday's regular-season finale, made it through just 30 minutes of practice Monday before stopping because of pain. Donovan said Jackson's participation in Tuesday morning's shootaround would determine her status for Game 1, and after Seattle hit the court this morning, Donovan's text message was short but succinct: "Lauren is in."
Jackson said there's no stopping her.
"I'm in a bit of pain, but not to worry," Jackson said in her text message Tuesday. "I'll be fine. It's the playoffs and that's all I needed to hear."
Seattle, the defending WNBA champion, opens the playoffs tonight (ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET) at Houston as the West's No. 2 seed. The best-of-three series shifts to Seattle on Thursday for Game 2. If necessary, Game 3, will be played Saturday at KeyArena.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 former MVP from Australia, ranks second in the league in both points (17.6) and rebounds (9.2) per game. Jackson, who tied Detroit's Cheryl Ford for most double-doubles (12) in the regular season, was also first in defensive rebounds per game, third in field goals made and fourth in blocks per game (2.0).
Still, Jackson's defensive presence might be most important against Houston and its All-Stars Tina Thompson and Michelle Snow. Fellow Australian Suzy Batkovic, Seattle's 6-4 reserve center, likely will see more playing time, but neither she nor Storm center Janell Burse are mobile enough to stick with Thompson when she floats out toward the perimeter.
The Storm and the third-seeded Comets, whose MVP candidate Sheryl Swoopes just edged Jackson for the regular-season scoring title, split their regular-season series 2-2. Swoopes is expected to be guarded by Seattle's Iziane Castro Marques in the series' other huge matchup.
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.