Bird and Swoopes Keep Storm Alive vs. Sparks

Storm 64, Sparks 50 (F)
Sue Bird scored 20 points, Sheryl Swoopes added 16, and the Seattle Storm beat the Los Angeles Sparks 64-50 Sunday to force a decisive Game 3 in the Western Conference semifinal series.

Seattle 64, Los Angeles 50

SEATTLE, Sept. 21 (AP) -- Sue Bird and Sheryl Swoopes teamed up to keep the Seattle Storm alive in the WNBA playoffs. It will probably take an effort just like it to get the club into the second round.

Bird scored 20 points, Swoopes added 16, and the Storm beat the Los Angeles Sparks 64-50 Sunday to force a decisive game in the best-of-three series.

Game 3 will be played Tuesday in Seattle, and the Storm will try to avoid losing in the opening round of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

"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.''

Seattle had a WNBA-best 16-1 record at home in the regular season, including 10 consecutive wins since a loss on June 16 to Connecticut.

Lisa Leslie had 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead Los Angeles. DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 11 points, and rookie Candace Parker had 10.

Los Angeles shot 16-for-52 (31 percent) from the field, but entered the final quarter shooting only 24 percent. Seattle went 21-for-58 (36 percent).

"That was a very well-played game by Seattle,'' Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said. "They did everything they wanted to do and made it very difficult for us to get anything on the inside, and we definitely have to have that.''

Bird praised the inside defensive play of Yolanda Griffith on Leslie.

"Yo is always going to give you that,'' Bird said. "She is so tough defensively in terms of rebounding and she is always guarding the other team's best player. She puts in work down there and she's tough to go against.''

Griffith loves going up against Leslie.

"I've been playing against Lisa for 10 years since I've been in this league,'' Griffith said. "She's a hard challenge, so I just try to outwork her.''

Bird also watched Camille Little slow down Parker.

"I thought Camille really played to her advantage that she is quick for her size,'' Bird said. "When Parker tried to put the ball on the floor, which she is very good at, Camille was able to stay with her.''

Little finished with 13 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, to help the Storm hold off the Sparks.

The Sparks cut a 21-point deficit down to seven with 3:06 left when Shannon Bobbitt hit a 3-pointer from the left corner.

But five straight free throws gave Seattle a 60-48 lead with 1:14 left. Leslie received a technical foul at 1:14 after officials called a personal foul on Parker.

"They had great defense, so you have to give them a lot of credit,'' Leslie said. "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.''

The Storm outscored the Sparks 24-14 in the third quarter to lead 50-29. Swoopes had seven points, Tanisha Wright scored six, and Bird added five in the frame. Wright finished with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Swoopes had seven points and three steals in the first four minutes of the second half to help give the Storm a 35-17 lead as the crowd's chants of "Beat L.A.'' grew louder.

"She (Swoopes) has responded from the concussion she had a couple of weeks ago,'' Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "I think that getting a game under her belt in L.A. helped her today. Obviously, she's been here a few times and I think that showed. She's a competitor and she can shoot the ball.''

Bird made three 3-pointers and Swoopes made two.

Bird had 10 points and Swoopes seven to give the Storm a 26-15 halftime lead.

Leslie missed all five of her shots in the opening half and finished 3-for-9. Parker shot 1-for-4 in the first half and 4-for-9 for the game.

Seattle center Lauren Jackson sat out again as she recovers from ankle surgery in late August. Jackson is expected to be out until the league championship series, if the Storm advance that far.

The Sparks beat Seattle 77-69 on Friday in Los Angeles.

Agler hopes the physical play doesn't wear out the Storm on Tuesday.

"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.''

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