Gm 1: at Sea., Fri., 8/18, 10 p.m. ET. NBA TV
Gm 2: at L.A., Sun., 8/20, 5 p.m. ET. ESPN2
Gm 3*: at L.A., Tues., 8/22, 10 p.m. ET. ESPN2
Two of the past three WNBA Most Valuable Players will be in action as 2004 MVP Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks square off against 2003 MVP Lauren Jackson and the Seattle Storm. Entering 2006 with mixed expectations, the Sparks began the season with a 3-3 record while playing their first six games on the road and without forward Chamique Holdsclaw. But after the eight-year veteran made her return to the lineup and Los Angeles returned to the Staples Center, the Sparks went on to win eight in a row and have not slowed down since. Los Angeles led the Western Conference for most of the season and clinched a playoff position with over two weeks to go in the regular season. Leslie led the franchise to its eighth playoff appearance and leads the Sparks in scoring (19.9 ppg), rebounding (9.6 rpg), blocks (1.7 bpg) and steals (1.5 spg) while playing a team-high 30.9 minutes per game in her tenth season. The Seattle Storm lost the last game of the regular season and dropped to the four seed, yet played without Lauren Jackson in that game. It might be better off as the Sparks have struggled against the Storm this season. The 2004 WNBA champions are led by All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, the Storm will look to bounce back from an early first-round exit last season when they were defeated by the Comets in two games. Jackson paced the Storm in scoring (19.5 ppg), rebounding (7.67 rpg), blocks (1.70 bpg) and three-point percentage (37.7% 3pt).

2006 Regular Season: Los Angeles 2 - Seattle Storm 1
Some fast facts about the Sparks-Storm first-round matchup:

Talk about a 1-2 punch, center Lisa Leslie led the Sparks in scoring 20 times and teammate Chamique Holdsclaw led the team seven times. Yet, the Sparksonly managed to go 3-4 when neither Holdsclaw nor Leslie was the team's leadings scorers.
Once the best home team in the WNBA, the Storm had identical 9-8 records at home and on the road this season. Seattle also struggled against many of the league's best, going only 7012 against teams with winning records.
Sixth Woman of the Year... Chamique Holdsclaw averaged 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists without starting a single game.
Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird have been named All-Stars together in 2006, 2005, 2003, and 2002.


Sunday, May 21, Key Arena, Seattle, WA: Storm 90, Sparks 67 | Box score

Seattle Leaders: Wendy Palmer (18 pts., 13 reb), Lauren Jackson (23 pts., 6 reb)
Los Angeles Leaders: Lisa Leslie (24 pts., 5 reb), Mwadi Mabika (19 pts., 4 reb)
NBA TV highlights: Play

Wednesday, June 28, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Storm 75, Sparks 67 | Box score
Seattle Leaders: Betty Lennox (27 pts., 8 reb), Sue Bird (11 pts., 4 ast)
Los Angeles Leaders: Tamara Moore (16 pts., 4 reb), Lisa Leslie (15 pts., 4 reb)

Sunday, July 30, Key Arena, Seattle, WA: Sparks 71, Storm 70 | Box score
Seattle Leaders: Lauren Jackson (27 pts., 8 reb), Betty Lennox (14 pts., 5 reb)
Los Angeles Leaders: Lisa Leslie (31 pts., 5 reb), Temeka Johnson (8 reb., 8 ast)