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Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - Page updated at 09:27 PM

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Sparks send Storm packing

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Lisa Leslie and Temeka Johnson scored 14 points each, helping the Los Angeles Sparks outlast the Seattle Storm 68-63 Tuesday night in the deciding game of their WNBA playoff series.

The Sparks won the last two games of the best-of-3 series and advanced to play Sacramento in the Western Conference finals beginning Thursday.

With her husband cheering courtside through a small yellow megaphone, Leslie grabbed eight rebounds. Johnson had six assists.

Mawadi Mabika added 11 points before fouling out with 2:05 to play.

Lauren Jackson led the Storm with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Sue Bird added 15 points while wearing a clear face mask to protect a bruised nose she sustained Sunday in Game 2. But she missed two huge jumpers in the final minute.

Betty Lennox, who had eight points, seven assists and six rebounds, also missed a 3-pointer for the Storm with 8 seconds left.

The Sparks grabbed the rebound and Jessica Moore got fouled. She made both free throws to seal the win, which Leslie celebrated by heaving the ball to the opposite end of the court.

Leslie picked up her third foul early in the fourth, which started with the Sparks ahead by 14 points.

Seattle responded with 10 straight points, including consecutive 3-pointers by Bird and Jackson to get within four with 3:17 left.

Jackson blocked Leslie and as the ball fell away, Tiffani Johnson picked it up and passed to a streaking Iziane Castro Marques, who made the layup, putting the Storm within two.

Temeka Johnson hit a 17-footer that kept the Sparks ahead 62-58 with 21/2 minutes remaining.

Mabika's sixth foul sent Jackson to the floor hard on her back, but she got up and made both free throws, and the Storm trailed 62-60.

Out of a jump ball, Jackson got the ball to Bird, who sprinted toward the basket and missed the layup. She was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to trail by one.

Bird missed a 3-pointer with under a minute to go, then a tightly guarded Moore missed a 7-foot in the lane for the Sparks with 31 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Jackson slung the ball toward the basket and scored to put Seattle within one with 25 seconds left, but the Storm wouldn't score again.

Sparks forward Chamique Holdsclaw was relegated to chewing gum on the bench because of a left foot injury. She led the team in rebounding in its Game 1 loss, then was limited to two minutes Sunday when the Sparks tied the series.

The Storm got within four points at the start of the third quarter, when they struggled offensively for the second straight game. They managed 13 points in the period, two fewer than in Game 2.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, built a 14-point lead on the shooting of Leslie and Mabika, who combined to score 15 of the team's 20 points. Lisa Willis sent the crowd into a frenzy by hitting a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go in the third.

Willis made up for a turnover on the previous play with a 3-pointer that got the Sparks rolling in the second quarter.

They outscored the Storm 17-3 to take a 31-19 lead with 2:34 remaining. The spurt included Leslie's first basket of the game after going scoreless in the opening 10 minutes, when the teams were tied at 14.

Los Angeles Lakers owner and Sparks chairman Jerry Buss attended the game.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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AL West W L Pct. GB Div. Streak
y-LA Angels 100 62 .617 --- 36-21 Won 1
Texas 79 83 .488 21 30-27 Lost 1
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Seattle 61 101 .377 39 22-35 Won 3

y - clinched division, x - clinched playoff berth

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