Sun work inside job on Jackson
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Connecticut forward Wendy Palmer-Daniel put it on the table. She didn't win a state championship. Never won a college championship. And in seven previous years in the WNBA, she hasn't won a pro title, either.
However, the Sun still have to win one more game for Palmer-Daniel and her teammates to take the title. In Sunday's matchup in Seattle, Connecticut will try to do as good a job against the Storm's post game as it did Friday. Center Lauren Jackson had 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting and fellow starter Kamila Vodichkova was 1-for-4 for just two points.
Palmer-Daniel and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, along with bench help from Asjha Jones, worked hard at putting the clamps on Jackson. And Palmer-Daniel also scored 16 points, while McWilliams-Franklin had 10.
Jackson is 23, and will be chasing championships for a long, long time. McWilliams-Franklin, who turns 34 on Oct. 20, and Palmer-Daniel, 30, are more aware of the ticking clock.
Admittedly, Seattle did plenty to hurt itself in the loss: turnovers, not enough aggression to the basket and failure to set up Jackson. Yet the Sun's interior defense certainly deserves a nod for how well it challenged Jackson and didn't let her get into a rhythm.
If you watched how great Jackson looked in the Western Conference finals, you might have wondered what anybody could do to stop her. On Friday, she wasn't as sharp, and she also wasn't getting much real help from the rest of her team.
Plus, the Sun tried to be as physical with her as possible. There's nothing Jackson hasn't experienced in that regard. Nor is there any defensive style that's guaranteed to disrupt her.
But Friday, it did get to Jackson. Asked if she was "roughed up," Jackson said, "Pretty much, but it doesn't matter because next game I'm going off. I didn't feel like I got involved at all. But I think we can change a few things. ... I'm not worried."
It's not just "big talk;" you can expect Jackson will be very ready for Game 2. The other thing is -- and this is especially good news for Seattle fans -- Jackson is one of those great talents who does understand there's still a lot to learn and improve on, no matter what stage of basketball you're playing.
She has become so good, in fact, that when she has "only" 16 points, it seems as if something's wrong.
McWilliams-Franklin expects things could be very different when the series moves to Seattle's KeyArena.
"We wanted to throw something in her vision to throw off her shot a little, so she wouldn't have easy looks," McWilliams-Franklin said of Friday's tactics. "She's huge; she turns around and lifts up her arms, and basically there's nothing you can do. We wanted her to at least notice that we're there defending her."
McWilliams-Franklin said the Sun's tactics weren't too much different from what the team had done defensively against Jackson when they met during the regular season.
"I don't think she was confused at all by what we were doing, her shots just didn't go in. On her rim, in her city, they're going to fall," McWilliams-Franklin said. "At that point, she started doing something else: getting offensive rebounds and easy putbacks."
Will the defense against Jackson be much the same when the teams meet Sunday?
"It might not be," McWilliams-Franklin said, smiling. "Who knows? That's a secret."Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.