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Storm’s 84-72 Victory Puts Heat on Sparks

From the Associated Press

The Sparks’ most troublesome matchup is seriously bugging them now.

Seattle’s Lauren Jackson scored 22 points and outplayed the Sparks’ Lisa Leslie to lead the fourth-seeded Storm to a 84-72 victory over the Western Conference’s top-seeded team in Game 1 of the first-round WNBA playoff series Friday night at KeyArena in Seattle.

Leslie, who scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the first half, made two free throws to pull the Sparks to within four, at 70-66, with 2:27 left. But Iziane Castro Marques, who had missed her five previous shots, made a three-point shot and then forced a turnover by Leslie. Marques ended the ensuing fastbreak with an assist on Jackson’s layup and three-point play that gave Seattle a 73-66 lead.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday at Staples Center, where the Sparks were 15-2 in the regular season. One of those losses was to Seattle. The Storm is the only team to beat L.A. more than once this season, taking two of three from the Sparks.

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“We’re going to come out ready on Sunday,” said Sparks Coach Joe Bryant, who lamented the disparity between Seattle’s 31 free throws and his team’s 15.

The showdown between Leslie and Jackson -- both of them former most valuable players -- peaked late in the third quarter, when Jackson blocked Leslie’s turnaround jumper in the lane before it left Leslie’s hand. That started a Seattle fastbreak and the night’s loudest cheer. Jackson got help from Janell Burse, who had 17 points. The two have been bothered by injuries and had not played together against L.A. this year.

“It was so nice to be able to play with her,” Jackson said of Burse. “They couldn’t double-team me as much.”

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Connecticut 76, Washington 61 -- Lindsay Whalen had 22 points and Katie Douglas added 17 to lead the Sun at Washington in the opener of the first-round series. Douglas also helped limit Mystics star Alana Beard to nine points on three-for-15 shooting. “That was definitely my number one assignment,” Douglas said, “just to give her different looks.”


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