Unable to pinpoint an obvious way to stop leading MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, Mercury coach Paul Westhead steered into his personal archives.
When Westhead was a high school freshman in the early 1950s, he watched his West Catholic High School defeat nearby Overbrook for the Philadelphia city championship.
West Catholic used four people to guard Overbrook’s 7-footer, Wilt Chamberlain, and had a fifth guy watch the remaining four Overbrook players. West Catholic won the state title, one of two games Chamberlain lost in his high school career.
It was a passing thought, but such tactics won’t work against Jackson, who’s had a Chamberlain-esque season in the women’s basketball world.
The favorite to win her second MVP award, Jackson averaged 29 points on 57 percent shooting, and 10 rebounds in three games against the Mercury this season.
That’s not all. A healthy Sue Bird — which she appears to be following knee surgery last month — is a top point guard in the league, and Betty Lennox and Iziane Castro Marques have all been forces on offense at various points.
“I don’t think you can gang up on her,” said Mercury forward Penny Taylor, who plays with Jackson on Australia’s national team. “They’re not just Lauren, they have scorers all over the floor. I think it’s important to be aware of where she is and have a presence to not give her open shots, but at the same time you have four other people on the floor who are dangerous in their own right.”
DON’T FORGET THE ‘D’
The league’s top two scoring offenses in the league (Phoenix: 88.9 ppg, Seattle: 80.4 ppg) will be on display, but the winner may be whoever can stop the other team first.
The two teams also allowed the most points per game of the playoff squads (Phoenix allowed 85 ppg, Seattle 78). The Mercury scored 101 points in an early August matchup, and still lost. It was the second time this season they had allowed Seattle to score 100 points.
The Storm shot 44 percent against Phoenix this year. The rest of the league shot 38 percent.
“You’ll never see a team with no defense win it all,” forward Olympia Scott said.
Anyone with the same first name as one of the Mercury starting five will receive a $5 lower-level playoff ticket to Sunday’s Game 2. Eligible names are Diana, Cappie, Penny, Tangela and Kelly. Fans must bring a valid form of identification to the US Airways Center box office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week and beginning at noon on Sunday.
Friday’s game will be broadcast on NBA TV. Game 2 on Sunday and (if necessary) Game 3 on Tuesday will be shown on ESPN2.
Seattle was the only Western Conference team to win its season series against Phoenix and handed the Mercury its only two conference road losses.
Mercury vs. Storm
What: First round of WNBA playoffs
Game 1: Friday at Seattle, 7 p.m., NBA TV
Game 2: Sunday at Phoenix, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3: Tuesday at Phoenix (if necessary), 6 p.m., ESPN2