Storm perseveres without Jackson
Seattle Times staff reporter
LOS ANGELES — Fans howled in disbelief, but Janell Burse wore the evidence in the form of a marble-sized bump on the left side of her lower lip — Lisa Leslie was here.
Burse, a Storm center, lured the All-Star into five quick fouls — the fifth occurring 55 seconds into the second half — to even the lineups between Los Angeles and Seattle on Wednesday.
The Storm was without Lauren Jackson, who did not make the trip to have her chronic left-shin injury evaluated. And with Leslie playing scattered minutes, the Storm was able to play as it pleased, dancing its way to a 75-67 win at Staples Center behind Betty Lennox's 27 points.
The win, Seattle's second this season against league-leading Los Angeles, snapped the Spark's eight-game win streak.
"You have to congratulate JB for that. She did an excellent job," said Lennox of Burse helping to hold Leslie to 15 points in 18 minutes after she scored a career-high 41 points Sunday. "She just stayed with it and this team has a lot of confidence. Lauren would be proud of us and we're just so excited that we won."
The Sparks trailed 41-28 when Leslie was called for her fifth foul. Burse made a move toward the basket with Leslie playing behind her, going for a block. Leslie swatted and her hand connected with Burse's face. Leslie couldn't believe the foul was called and slammed the ball to the floor before heading to the bench, knowing she'd have to take a seat. She was on the bench until the 8:10 mark of the final quarter and the Sparks down 62-47.
"When you think about it, how are you going to give Lisa Leslie three offensive fouls?" Sparks coach Joe Bryant said. "That stuff is not fair, but that's the name of the game. We have to be more than players, we have to beat obstacles. Whether it is the Three Stooges, the Three Amigos or the Marx Brothers, we still have to overcome that."
Leslie's return boosted the Sparks, but they couldn't make up the deficit. The Storm players repeated to each other in every huddle to keep their intensity and defensive focus up until the final buzzer, knowing that relaxing when leading late is what caused five of their eight losses this summer.
"I never really felt like it was our game and that was kinda good," Storm guard Sue Bird said. "We just played as if we were down five, always attacking, always aggressive, always telling each other, 'We need to get a stop! We need to get a stop!' even though we were up 17 at times. That's what we needed to win the game."
The victory marks the Storm's first win without Jackson in the lineup since 2003.
Rookie Barbara Turner started in Jackson's place and Iziane Castro Marques returned to the starting lineup after a one-game demotion. Turner didn't match Jackson's numbers (team-leading 19.6 points, 8.0 rebounds), but she helped keep Sparks sharpshooter Mwadi Mabika humble with 1-of-10 shooting. And little-used reserve Cisti Greenwalt, a rookie, teamed with center Tiffani Johnson for strong inside play, each grabbing six rebounds.
"I got to come in in the first quarter and get in the flow of the game instead of at the end and get in the mix of people," said Greenwalt, who played 10 minutes. "I knew I had to rebound, so that's all I thought about."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
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