When she presented Lauren Jackson with the 2010 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award presented by Kia Motors, league President Donna Orender paid tribute to Jackson’s skill and her role in the Storm’s 28-6 regular season. However, Orender’s prose could not compare to the argument Jackson made for her value on the KeyArena court hours later in the Storm’s 82-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
It was Jackson who got the Storm going after a slow start on offense, knocking down a pair of early three-pointers. By halftime, Jackson’s production (17 points and 12 rebounds) was already prodigious. When the Mercury contained Jackson with more aggressive double-teams and extra attention within its rover zone defense in the second half, she responded by going to the glass and relentless ripping down rebounds. It was, in short, a complete performance from a well-rounded superstar.
“I think Lauren got us off to that start with her presence inside, catching the ball, finishing,” said Head Coach Brian Agler. “She didn’t score in the first three or four minutes of the game, but from the middle of the first quarter on into the second she was really doing some damage inside. She had a chance to hit some threes; we got her on a flare screen one time. She was feeling it.”
As notable as Jackson’s scoring was, it was her rebounding that ultimately stood out. Her 17 boards were a franchise playoff record and the most by any player in this year’s postseason to date.
“Rebounding is key against this team,” explained Sue Bird. “Defensively, obviously it doesn’t allow them to score with second shots, and offensively it doesn’t allow them to run. Lauren was huge on the boards.”
Jackson’s teammates might have been impressed by Jackson’s performance, but they weren’t surprised by it. They’ve come to expect these kinds of efforts from the three-time MVP.
“That’s Lauren. That’s why she’s the MVP,” Bird said. “She can get it done in a variety of ways, both offensively and defensively, and she came up big for us.”
“She’s the MVP,” added Svetlana Abrosimova. “Those are the games that you really step up, and she was amazing. When I looked at the scoreboard and saw 17 points in the first half, I was like, ‘Whoa.’ And she just gets rebounds. As a teammate, you’re so happy because that’s what wins the game for you. It’s easy opportunities for you to score, extra possessions. It’s crucial.”
It’s not only crucial, it’s valuable. And, as Jackson reminded again tonight, there is no one more valuable in the WNBA.