Storm heads into playoffs with 97-77 win over Sparks
The Associated Press
Lauren Jackson capped a likely MVP season with 32 points and 15 rebounds, and the Seattle Storm pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 97-77 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.
Jackson, the WNBA leader in scoring and rebounding, topped the 30-point mark for the ninth time this season to set a league record, and Seattle finished off the regular season at 17-17.
Iziane Castro Marques added 24 points and Sue Bird scored 14 points and had eight assists for Seattle, who won all four games against Los Angeles this season.
Sidney Spencer led Los Angeles with a career-high 25 and Marta Fernandez added 16. The loss assured the Sparks (10-23) of the worst season in franchise history. Los Angeles was 12-18 in 1998, the last year it failed to make the playoffs. The Sparks close the season on Sunday against Houston.
The victory meant nothing to Seattle’s playoff positioning as they will be the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
But the game held a little more meaning for fans of the franchise, who are unsure if the Storm will be in Seattle for the 2008 season. Clay Bennett, the owner of the Storm and NBA’s SuperSonics, has threatened to move the franchises if a new arena isn’t built in the Seattle area. He has given an Oct. 31 deadline for an arena plan to be developed or he will file for relocation with the NBA. There’s been no definitive answer on the Storm’s future, but Bennett has said he doesn’t intend to split the franchises.
Seattle will face Phoenix in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs beginning next Friday in Seattle. The Mercury clinched the top seed in the conference when San Antonio lost to Indiana earlier on Friday night.
They’ll head into the postseason winners of three straight and with nearly a week off following a strong second half against Los Angeles, thanks to Bird and Jackson.
Bird, averaging a career low 10.3 points this season, was aggressive with her shot in the third quarter, making five of eight attempts in the quarter for 12 points. Her and Jackson combined for 23 of Seattle’s 30 points in the quarter.
Seattle then pulled away early in the fourth, outscoring the Sparks 18-4 to start the quarter. Jackson scored seven points during the stretch, and finished 15-for-16 at the free-throw line. She checked out with 3:24 left to chants of “M-V-P!”
Jackson was league MVP in 2003.
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