LOS ANGELES, Sept. 1 (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Sparks returned to the Western Conference finals with a 74-64 victory over the Minnesota Lynx as Lisa Leslie scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures.

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Beaten in the opener of the best-of-three series, the two-time defending champion Sparks won both games at home and will face Sacramento or Houston in the conference finals.

"This is one of the most physical playoff series we have ever had in our two years," Los Angeles guard Tamecka Dixon said. "They did what they were supposed to do - they beat us at home and came here and gave us a battle."

"Sacramento matches up with us well because they like to get up and down the floor. Yolanda Griffith and Tangela Smith match up well with DeLisha (Milton) and I," Leslie said. "Houston is the team that we love to hate."

Leslie also had seven rebounds and five blocked shots for Los Angeles, which never trailed in the decisive third game and took the lead for good, 7-5, on a layup by Leslie with 18:14 to go in the first half.

Milton scored six of her 13 points during a 12-2 run that extended the Sparks' advantage to 28-15 with just over six minutes left. They took a 38-26 lead into the locker room.

A 3-pointer by Kristi Harrower got the Lynx within 62-55 with 6:10 to play, but layups by Mwadi Mabika and Leslie built Los Angeles' lead back to double digits.

Dixon scored 14 points, Nikki Teasley added 13 and Mabika finished with 12 for the Sparks, who shot 51 percent (31-of-61) and held the Lynx to 35 percent (23-of-65).

"We learned that our starters can go 40 minutes," Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said. "We don't want to play them like that, but we needed this win. This got us a little more prepared for whoever we face next. It also tested our character, endurance and our composure."

Tamika Williams led Minnesota with 17 points and nine rebounds, but Katie Smith was held to 11 on 4-of-14 shooting.

"We couldn't be more proud of our team, they way they fought and continued to believe in each other," Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio said. "They played their hearts out and fell a little short, but they gave everything they had and you have to give them a lot of credit.

"The Sparks stepped up and hit the big shots when they needed to as well as made plays when it counted."