Lisa Leslie will try to extend her career as the Sparks take on the Storm in the Western Conference semifinals.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Leslie's Los Angeles Sparks will square off against the Seattle Storm in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. This battle between the two-seeded Storm and three-seeded Sparks is a repeat of last season’s West Semifinals. The Sparks got the best of the Seattle in that series, but lost to San Antonio Silver Stars in the Western Conference Finals.
The Sparks (18-16) are in the playoffs after spending a portion of the season in last place. Their surge up the standings was due in part to the return of Leslie (knee) and Candace Parker (pregnancy), both of whom missed a combined 19 games total. The two have played outstanding since hitting the floor again, with Parker (13.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg) averaging nearly a double-double each night, while Leslie (15.4 ppg) leads the Sparks in scoring.
In their absence, the Sparks received strong contributions from forward Tina Thompson (13 ppg, 5.9 rpg), forward DeLisha Milton-Jones (10.2 ppg) and guard Betty Lennox (10.2 ppg).
Los Angeles has won three straight and are 10-3 in their last 13 games, including a 4-1 record on the road during that span. That bodes well considering the Storm have home-court advantage in this series. What works in Seattle's favor, however, is their 13-4 record at KeyArena, second best among all WNBA teams at home this season.
Bird (12.8 ppg, 5.8 apg) and Cash (12.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) have also been key to the Storm's success this season, as have guard Tanisha Wright (12.2 ppg) and forward Camille Little (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Center Janell Burse (6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg) will fill in for Jackson should she be unable to go.
Seattle has been to five straight playoffs, including capturing the first and only championship in franchise history back in 2004. Since then, the Storm have not been able to get out of the first round. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has been to the postseason nine of the last 10 years, three of which resulted in trips to the Finals (2-1).
There is no clear-cut winner in the season series between these two clubs. Both have won two games apiece, and they haven't faced each other since Aug. 6. The Sparks, however, have the edge offensively averaging 78.8 points over the four games, while the Storm have come close with 74.3.
This is Seattle’s chance for not only revenge from last season’s loss, but also an opportunity to avoid a historical stretch of struggles in the playoffs. On the other hand, Leslie and the Sparks hope her great career can be capped off with another title.
2009 Regular Season: Seattle 2, Los Angeles 2
Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
- The Storm (74.82) and Sparks (74.50) are 11th and 12th in the league in points per game.
- Leslie has played in just one of the four games against the Storm this season. Parker has played in only two.
- Seattle was the two seed in 2004 when they won their only trophy.
- Lennox was part of that Storm championship team. Only Jackson and Bird remain off that roster.
- Leslie has spent her entire 13-year career with the Sparks. During that time, she’s made seven All-Star appearances and has won two titles.
- Milton-Jones and Leslie are the only two current Sparks from their 2002 championship team. Leslie has remained with the club over the years, while Milton-Jones left three seasons (2005-07) to play in Washington.
Friday, June 26, KeyArena, Seattle, WA: Storm 69, Sparks 67 | Box Score
Seattle Leaders: Lauren Jackson (32 pts., 8 reb.), Sue Bird (15 pts., 5 ast.)
Los Angeles Leaders: Tina Thompson (20 pts.), DeLisha Milton-Jones (10 pts. 7 reb.)
Sunday, June 28, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA Sparks 82, Storm 55 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Marie Ferdinand-Harris (15 pts.), Betty Lennox (14 pts., 4 reb.)
Seattle Leaders: Swin Cash (7 pts., 8 reb.), Camille Little (9 pts., 4 reb.)
Wednesday, July 22, KeyArena, Seattle, WA: Storm 98, Sparks 87 | Box score
Seattle Leaders: Sue Bird (23 pts., 5 reb., 5 ast.), Camille Little (17 pts., 14 reb.)
Los Angeles Leaders: Tina Thompson (22 pts., 6 reb.), Betty Lennox (19 pts., 12 reb., 12 ast.)
Thursday, August 6, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Sparks 79, Storm 75 | Box score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Noelle Quinn (23 pts., 7 reb., 3 ast.), Candace Parker (18 pts., 13 reb.)
Seattle Leaders: Lauren Jackson (21 pts., 4 reb.), Swin Cash (14 pts., 8 reb., 2 ast.)
See how the teams match up position by position
12.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.8 APG
Note: Leads the league in assists (5.8) per game
13 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.3 APG
Note: Ninth overall in the league in defensive rebounds (153)
12.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.9 APG
Note: Ranks third in the league in free throws percentage (.906)
3.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Second in the league in assists per turnover (2.56)
12.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: Three-time WNBA All-Star
13.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: 15 double-doubles this season lead the WNBA
10.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG
Note: Sixth in the WNBA in offensive rebounds (75)
10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Has spent eight of 11 years in L.A.
6.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.3 APG
Note: 13th in the WNBA in blocks per game (.91)
15.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.1 APG
Note: Sixth in the league in field-goal percentage (.518)