Sparks Hold On Late to Advance to Western Conference Finals
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (Ticker) -- Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks finally got over their first-round troubles.
Leslie and Temeka Johnson scored 14 points apiece as the Sparks survived a late rally to hold on for a 68-63 victory over the Seattle Storm in the decisive Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
With the win, the top-seeded Sparks avoided being eliminated in the opening round for the third straight postseason. However, the season-ending setback for the Storm marks the second year in a row they have exited the postseason in the first round.
The Sparks held a 54-40 lead after three quarters, but that was quickly reduced following a 12-2 surge by the Storm. Iziane Castro Marques made a driving layup to cap the run for a 56-52 score with 4:31 to go.
Even though Seattle kept chipping away, Los Angeles still managed to hold on to the lead going into the final minute.
Lauren Jackson made a tough running bank shot to pull the Storm within 64-63 with 25 seconds remaining. Six seconds later, Tamara Moore split a pair of foul shots, pushing the lead back to 65-63.
Following a Seattle timeout, Sue Bird missed the tying jumper before Murriel Page sank 1-of-2 free throws for Los Angeles, making it 66-63 with just eight seconds left.
Without a timeout, the Storm pushed the ball the length of the floor and Betty Lennox threw up a poor desperation attempt from the left corner while trying to draw a foul, sealing the win for the Sparks.
Jackson finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Bird added 15 points for fourth-seeded Seattle, which shot barely 30 percent (20-of-67) for the contest despite outscoring Los Angeles, 23-14, in the final period.