Candace Parker couldn't shake Lauren Jackson on defense. Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Jackson Leads Storm Defense
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | May 17, 2010
On a night where shots weren't falling, defense carried the Seattle Storm to an 81-67 Opening Night victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. The Storm held the Sparks to 36.8 percent shooting, forced 22 turnovers and rebounded all those missed shots, surrendering just five offensive boards.
Perhaps the most important part of the defensive effort was the way the Storm contained 2008 MVP Candace Parker. Fresh off a 24-point, 12-rebound effort in L.A.'s opening game at Phoenix, Parker was limited to 10 points. She shot 4-of-11 from the field and turned the ball over five times. Defending Parker was a team effort, but Storm counterpart Lauren Jackson's ability to defend Parker one-on-one was key to making that work.
"Candace Parker's a great player," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said after the game. "There is absolutely no question about it. Lauren Jackson's defense tonight was unbelievable. Unbelievable. We have some people who can stay in plays with Candace. A lot of teams don't have that, so they have to gimmick and do different things to defend her, go to zones and things like that. I'm sure there will be games Candace will have big games against us. But Lauren really did a great job. I told her that afterward."
The Storm began the game double-teaming Parker in the post, but with the Sparks knocking down five three-pointers in the first 12 minutes of the game, that strategy could not continue.
"What they did to us early is they threw it to her, then we'd go help to her and they'd kick out and hit shots," explained Agler. "So we had to adjust from just totally going into help to cat and mouse - not giving her a good read of whether we were going to come or stay with shooters."
That put more pressure on Jackson to handle Parker without the benefit of help. She responded well - despite the fact that she admitted she still wasn't sure how to stop Parker, whom she called "a great player."
"I don't know what I was trying to do," Jackson said. "I didn't really have a plan or anything. I knew she was going to score. I guess it was just my 29 years on this Earth."
Los Angeles Head Coach Jennifer Gillom also cited Jackson's veteran savvy as key to the matchup.
"I think Lauren has a little bit more experience over Candace and she probably knows how to defend her," noted Gillom. "With them being the same size it definitely helps her as well. Yeah, I thought she played her pretty tough, but all that’s going to do is get Candace better. "
For teammate Ashley Robinson, the effort at that end of the floor by the 2007 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year set the tone for the rest of the team.
"Lauren led by example today, especially on Parker," said Robinson. "She made it really tough for her to score. Then with everybody digging, our defense was really active."
Robinson Gives Storm a Lift
Less than a week ago, it wasn't clear whether Robinson would make the Storm's final roster. When forwards Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham got in foul trouble during the second quarter of the Storm's opener, however, Robinson suddenly became a key figure. She played the last five and a half minutes of the first half and was on the floor as the Storm outscored Los Angeles 15-7 to turn what had been a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
"Ashley came in and did a really good job for us," said Agler. "She spelled LJ a little bit also. That's why she's on our roster. That was very important for us."
Knowing that she would have an extended period on the floor helped Robinson, especially after she started the game slowly, misfiring badly on her first shot attempt.
"To get to go back in and know that Brian believed in me enough to put me back in the game when the girls got in foul trouble and get those minutes and get those legs under me meant a lot," she said after the game. "It always helps every player to get minutes in this league. You see people play totally different when they get minutes. I'm a testament to that every year. When I start getting minutes, I play better. I don't want them to get in foul trouble anymore. I would be happy if they didn't, but I like the minutes and I hope I can help."
When she replaced Jackson at times, Robinson was also asked to defend Parker and helped maintain the Storm's defensive intensity. The Storm again extended its lead when Robinson gave Jackson a brief rest midway through the fourth quarter. For the game, the team outscored Los Angeles by 10 points during Robinson's 10 minutes of action.
"I think that just shows that not everything you do shows up on the stat sheet," said Robinson. "If we can go up by 10 with me in the game, that's a pretty good team. That's a really good team. We already know what Camille and Le'coe can do. If I go in the game and we keep on kicking butt, we have a really good team, so I'm happy with that."