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20080923/LASSEA
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By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Writer

The Seattle Storm have been knocked out in the first rounds of each of the last three postseasons. They didn't have home-court advantage in two of those series, though - and they've never had a home-court edge like this.

The Storm will put their nearly-flawless record at KeyArena on the line Tuesday when they face the Los Angeles Sparks in a decisive Game 3, with the winner securing a spot in the Western Conference finals.

Since winning the 2004 WNBA title, Seattle has been ousted in the first round in each of its last three trips to the playoffs. The Storm have been eliminated on the road in the last two seasons - including a loss at Los Angeles in 2006 - but this year, they won't have to worry about going anywhere for Game 3.

They had the best home record in the league, going a franchise-best 16-1 at KeyArena including 10 wins in a row there to close the regular season.

After dropping Game 1 to the Sparks 77-69 on Friday in Los Angeles, Seattle returned home and delivered a dominant defensive effort to even the series. The Storm held Los Angeles to 30.8 percent shooting and 15 first-half points on their way to a 64-50 victory Sunday behind 20 points from Sue Bird.

"We've been knocked out of the first round way too much - three times in a row,'' Bird said. "That's not a good feeling. Right now, we're in a good spot. Game 3 will be hard, but the one thing we do have is we'll be on our home floor.''

Sheryl Swoopes added 16 points for the Storm in Game 2. Seattle won, however, with a defense that smothered the Sparks from the start and held stars Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie in check once again.

Parker (18.5 points per game in the regular season) and Leslie (15.1) haven't been able to find much free space so far in the playoffs. Each has averaged 10.5 points thus far, and no Los Angeles player has scored more than 11 points in the two games.

"They had great defense, so you have to give them a lot of credit,'' said Leslie, who has 14 turnovers in the series. "They came out really aggressive and it was a very physical game. I'm not sure what we expected, but it was a super physical game. I think it took us a while to adjust to that.''

Seattle coach Brian Agler, meanwhile, is worried that Los Angeles will be more aggressive in defending Bird, particularly after she's been so good in the first two games.

"I'm concerned with how we'll deal with the physical play - the constant physical play against Bird,'' Agler said. "If we are able to deal with that, we may have an opportunity.''

Seattle has won five straight against Los Angeles at home dating to the 2006 conference semifinals.

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