Commentary

Lauren Jackson leads Storm to 2-0 start

WNBA Finals shift to Atlanta for Thursday's Game 3 (ESPN2/ESPN3.com, 8 p.m. ET)

Originally Published: September 14, 2010
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

SEATTLE -- You might think Lauren Jackson, bruised and scratched up even more than usual after another battle with Atlanta in the WNBA Finals, would just collapse into an exhausted sleep. But she had other plans.

"I'll be up all night. I'll go home and watch the game. I'll have a glass of wine," Jackson said. "My parents are here, and they'll cook me food. They've been making every meal for me.

"I'm their little baby. I feel stupid saying that, because I'm almost 30 years old, but they do take very good care of me."

[+] EnlargeLauren Jackson
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty ImagesLauren Jackson led all scorers with 26 points, hitting 6 of 12 field goal attempts and 13 of 17 free throws.

Hey, somebody should. When you've been a 6-foot-5 target for elbows, fists, fingernails and knees for 35 minutes, you deserve a little TLC from mom and dad. If it's any consolation to Jackson, though, as the saying goes, you should see the other guys.

The Dream still ended up the worse for wear against the league MVP and her team, as the Storm held off Atlanta a second consecutive time. In Seattle's 87-84 Game 2 victory, Jackson had 26 points and seven rebounds.

She earned 13 of her points at the foul line, as the Dream did what they could to hamper Jackson's outside looks -- she had one 3-pointer Tuesday compared to four on Sunday -- and forced her to earn most of what she got by paying a physical price inside for it.

"That's the beauty of Lauren -- she can kill you in a lot of different ways," Seattle point guard Sue Bird said. "It makes her so difficult to guard. Early on, we saw they were switching [on screens] and that was putting some smaller players on her. So immediately, we tried to get it in to her as much as possible.

"And to her credit, the second she catches it, it's like 'whoosh,' everybody goes to her. So for her to be able to score or get fouled -- that's not easy. She makes it look easy, but you don't see other players doing it. It's not easy."

Indeed, the imagery Bird provided of what it looks like when defenders converge on Jackson as soon as she touches the ball … well, it kinda makes you think of piranhas swarming at something falling into the water.

Except, in Jackson's case, the piranhas suffer more damage than they dish out. Yet they leave their marks. Which is why after games like these two in the Finals, Jackson might not be "jolly" … but she's definitely still the Green Giant.

"At the beginning of the game, I did get pretty angry," Jackson said. "I think that their tactic is to try to get me really mad so I get more technicals, maybe? The last two games have been pretty tough, mate.

"I think I had someone glued to me each play, so I knew it was going to be physical. My mum and I talked before the game. She said, 'Look it's going to happen this way, and this is what you have to do to keep your composure.'"

Iziane Castro Marques
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty ImagesIziane Castro Marques, above, and teammate Angel McCoughtry both finished with 21 points.

Lots of moms can provide support, but Maree Jackson really does know whereof she speaks, being a former basketball standout herself.

"It's really helpful to have her here," Lauren said. "Every game, even when they're not here, I call her and she gives me words of wisdom."

Jackson's parents, visiting from their native Australia, will also be making the trip to Atlanta for the rest of the series. They were not able to see the 2004 Finals in person, when Jackson and the Storm beat Connecticut for the title.

Seattle then had five years of playoff frustration, losing in the first round, but the Storm are now one victory away from getting the franchise's second championship.

"Once we get down there in Atlanta … home-court advantage is important, and I'm not as confident as I would be playing here," Jackson said. "They're playing well. I'm not one to be scared, but I also know exactly what we're looking at. And it's going to be hard no matter what happened tonight or in the first game."

Still, the Storm did exactly what they hoped to do in opening the series at KeyArena, where they are now 21-0 in 2010. Tuesday's victory came even though Seattle lost the rebounding battle by seven and despite gutsy performances by Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, who took three stitches in the first game, and Iziane Castro Marques, who spent part of the first half of Game 2 with an ice bag on the bridge of her nose after being hit there.

They both had 21 points, with McCoughtry also grabbing nine rebounds. The inside combo of Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza combined for 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Atlanta's Coco Miller was so close to Bird all night while guarding her that she might now think it's Bird who's her identical twin. Nah, actually, of course she knows that's Kelly, and they had the twin thing going on late in the game when C. Miller passed to K. Miller for a jumper with 3 seconds left that cut Seattle's lead to three.

Just as in Game 1, the Storm had to be thinking, "Good grief, what does it take to bury these guys?" And then there was some head shaking from Swin Cash, who had very good game overall -- 19 points, three assists -- but was furious with herself for missing two free throws with 2.2 seconds left that could have fully iced it.

Atlanta wasn't able to get off a shot, though, and the Storm could take a deep breath after what they hope was their last game in Seattle this season. Tanisha Wright had 17 points for the Storm, while Bird had 10 points and five assists.

"We're going into Thursday saying we want to win that night," Cash said. "If we're able to get the win, we'll have accomplished our goal. And we've put ourselves in great position, because if we don't get it Thursday night, we'll have two more shots at it."

And they're also in great position because they have Jackson.

"I still don't think our team is playing the best basketball we can play," Jackson said. "So I want to try to do whatever I can to get to a place where we feel really good about the game. If we get to that point, hopefully next game, we're gonna be awesome."

Kind of a tough self-critique after going up 2-0 in the series, huh? But that's Jackson. Bird was more forgiving of Seattle's so-called flaws, and that's the way she provides some comfort to Jackson.

Understandably, LJ might feel a bit beat up. Heck, just look at her: She has been beat up. But she has persevered and helped the Storm be in very, very good shape, combining for 52 points and 15 rebounds in the two games.

"I know we didn't play well, but I'm not mad. We won," Bird said. "And sometimes, especially in Finals or championship games, you can't expect it to be pretty. You're not going to go out there and win by 20. You've got to grind it out. When we needed to make big plays, we did."

Something Jackson has been doing all season in Seattle. All the last decade, in fact.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at voepel.wordpress.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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