Sparks Hold Off Storm in Playoff Opener
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer

Sparks 77, Storm 69 (F)
Lisa Leslie notched a double-double as the Sparks held off a late Storm rally to take Game 1 at home Friday.
Los Angeles 77, Seattle 69

LOS ANGELES, Sept 19 (AP) -- Candace Parker had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and the Los Angeles Sparks overcame late turnovers to beat the Seattle Storm 77-69 in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night.

Sue Bird scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half for the Storm, which got within six points in the final five minutes then went cold offensively.

Game 2 of the best-of-three playoff series is Sunday in Seattle, where the Storm was a WNBA-best 16-1 in the regular season. The Sparks won the teams' season series, losing only on the road.

DeLisha Milton-Jones and Marie Ferdinand-Harris added 11 points each, Lisa Leslie had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Keisha Brown scored 10 points for the Sparks, who prevailed despite key turnovers by Leslie, Parker and Jones in the closing minutes.

Milton-Jones has scored in double figures in four consecutive games. Leslie was named WNBA defensive player of the year Friday.

Tanisha Wright added 13 points for the Storm, whose bench got outscored 32-15.

The Storm was without two-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, who had ankle surgery after the Beijing Olympics and isn't expected back before the finals, if the Storm get that far.

Seattle closed within six points after outscoring the Sparks 13-7 to open the fourth quarter. Bird had six points in the burst. But the Storm couldn't take advantage despite the Sparks' sequence of turnovers, mostly on bad passes and losing the ball out of bounds.

Parker scored and then Ferdinand-Harris hit a 3-pointer that pushed the Sparks' lead to 74-61 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

Seattle rallied from a 27-point deficit to get within eight in the third quarter when Milton-Jones sat down with her fourth foul. Veteran Sheryl Swoopes scored five in a row and Bird and Ashley Robinson added four each in the Storm's 16-8 run.

But the Sparks stretched their lead to 60-48 heading into the final quarter, helped by Raffaella Masciadri's two 3-pointers off the bench.

The Sparks dominated the opening quarter, taking an 18-5 lead with Milton-Jones, Brown and Parker all hitting consecutive three-point plays. Reserves Swin Cash and Swoopes joined Bird in helping the Storm close to 25-15 heading into the second quarter.

But the Sparks kept up their offensive pace, outscoring the Storm 14-4 during one stretch and taking a 44-27 lead into halftime. Backup guard Temeka Johnson scored six straight points and Sidney Spencer added four in the Sparks' spurt.

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