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Sparks, and Leslie, are still around

September 21, 2009|Associated Press

SEATTLE — Retirement will have to wait for another day for Lisa Leslie -- or at least for another two games.

Leslie had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Candace Parker scored 22 points and keyed a second-quarter run that led the Sparks to a 75-64 victory over the Seattle Storm on Sunday in the deciding third game of the WNBA Western Conference semifinals.

It was the second straight year the Sparks eliminated the Storm in the opening round by winning Game 3 at Seattle. They bounced back from Friday night's 75-74 loss in Game 2, in which the Storm scored five points in the final 14 seconds.

"I woke up this morning and I just knew I didn't want to end my career here," said Leslie, the three-time MVP and four-time Olympic gold medalist who said before the season that this would be her last year. "I just said, 'This can't be my last game.' "

It won't be.

The Sparks advanced to face Phoenix or San Antonio for the conference championship. The Mercury and Silver Stars play Game 3 tonight in Phoenix.

Parker scored six points during an early 13-0 burst that gave the Sparks a big cushion. Tina Thompson had 12 points for the Sparks, who were just as effective at the defensive end. Los Angeles limited Seattle to 32.8% shooting (21 for 64).

"Our help defense was much better tonight," Leslie said. "Overall, I think just knowing personnel and having to play a team three times, you kind of figure out what everyone's tendencies are, more than anything else."

Added Sparks Coach Michael Cooper, "In the first quarter, I thought we came out real focused on defense and what we wanted to accomplish. We forced them to take some tough shots and kept them on the perimeter, took away the inside game."

The Sparks led from start to finish, by as many as 18 during the first half and by 21 during the second. The Storm missed its first seven shots, shot just six for 30 (20%) during the first half and was bounced in the first round for the fifth straight time since winning the league championship in 2004.

"I thought L.A. did a good job of congesting the lane on us," Seattle Coach Brian Agler said. "They challenged a lot of shots without fouling."

Swin Cash had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Seattle, which cut a 20-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to nine in the final minute.

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Western Conference finals

Wednesday: Sparks at San Antonio or Phoenix at Sparks (Pauley Pavilion)

Friday: San Antonio at Sparks (Staples Center) or Sparks at Phoenix

Saturday*: San Antonio at Sparks (Pauley Pavilion) or Sparks at Phoenix

* if necessary

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