Storm F Lauren Jackson let loose a drawn out “Yes” after the question was asked. Given the trials of the season, do you feel thankful that you’ve retained the second-place standing?
“Yes, that’s why now — playing and winning — if we could catch Phoenix, that would be awesome,” Jackson said.
The only problem is she stated that prior to Saturday’s news that she’d be out indefinitely with stress fractures in her lower back. Jackson has more doctor’s visits scheduled today, but the team is preparing for tough three-game road trip knowing it will be without the leading scorer (19.2). Seattle is 15-19 without Jackson all-time.
The Storm was 8-5 without Jackson last season, getting a primary inside boost from Camille Little, who lined up with bruiser Yolanda Griffith. Although not the defender Griffith was, C Janell Burse is stepping in to fill Jackson’s void.
“It’s just getting used to the old role I used to have,” said Burse, the Storm’s starting center from 2005-07, who was replaced in favor of a Little-Jackson look. “Coming out and trying to help set the tone instead of trying to maintain it.”
Seattle still hopes to catch Phoenix for the Western Conference lead and could with a Sept. 10 game against the Mercury. But the Storm is facing three teams on the road with playoff dreams of their own.
In fact, New York (12-17), Washington (14-15), and Minnesota (12-17) are on postseason bubbles where loses to Seattle (18-11) could burst hope. The Liberty are in a six-way race for three spots, Indiana already mathematically winning the regular-season title. Washington also is in that race, currently seeded third, two-games ahead of the last-place Liberty.
Minnesota will play a season-defining game against San Antonio (12-17) on Tuesday. (Can’t believe there’s no news of this game being aired on NBA-TV given its complications, but in this peppy report from league president Donna Orender, kinks with how you actually view this “great” product are being worked out. And I digress) Both have to win, but the Lynx really need the victory because the Silver Stars own tiebreakers in best overall conference record and winning percentage against teams with a winning record.
Of the three Storm opponents, all are questionable to advance. So, Seattle could be bursting bubbles all the way back home to face Phoenix for the regular-season conference title. I doubt New York and Minnesota make it simply because they’re having troubling consistently pulling out wins against more veteran teams. Despite a loss to Washington on Sunday, the Lynx have the strongest chance of the two.
New York, which nearly reached the Finals last year, has five games remaining and has only played well against one of those opponent, Atlanta. But the Dream is a different team, now.
The Mystics have winning records against their five remaining opponents and have the ability to play good defense. But lost All-Star G Alana Beard on Sunday to a rolled left ankle. She tweaked her right against Seattle and could have re-entered, but didn’t. First-year coach Julie Plank said after the Seattle incident that she didn’t expect Beard to missing any games, maybe practice.
Due to the high importance of these games, Beard could play. But will she end up in a Jackson situation?
The amazing part about the postseason is how Seattle floated at second despite two weeks of games either decided in overtime or by five points or fewer. How they retained homecourt regardless of getting consistent production from the bench. How they remained one of the top two teams in the West despite injuries to rookie Ashley Walker (toe), Katie Gearlds (knee), and now Jackson (back).
“It was definitely frustrating,” said Jackson of the stretch where Seattle went 4-5. “I think every team goes through it like once, but it was definitely frustrating. The overtime games, even when we did win those, it was like, ‘Pulled another one out thank God!’ We didn’t play well. Now we’re starting to get in a groove.”
But it’ll have to continue without Jackson. For now.