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Jackson outplays Leslie as Storm extinguish Sparks

SEATTLE (AP) -- Lauren Jackson gingerly walked out of the Seattle
Storm locker room on the ball of her aching left foot. Ice was
under the foot's arch, site of the 2003 MVP's plantar fasciitis.
She had another ice bag hanging off her lower left leg, for shin
splints.

"Piggyback!" Jackson playfully asked teammate Janell Burse,
putting her arm around on Burse's own ice bag resting on her left
shoulder.

The battered Storm owed Jackson the ride late Friday. Jackson
again carried Seattle with 22 points and nine rebounds while
outplaying Los Angeles' fellow former MVP Lisa Leslie in the
fourth-seeded Storm's 84-72 win over the top-seeded Sparks in Game
1 of the WNBA Western Conference first-round playoffs at roaring
KeyArena.

Burse added 17 points in the first game she and Jackson played
together against Los Angeles this season.

"It was so nice to be able to play with her. They couldn't
double-team me as much," said Jackson, a native of Australia.

"So good job, mate!" Jackson added, slapping Burse's left
knee.

Leslie led Los Angeles with 15 points, but took only one of her
nine total shots in the second half. She played the final quarter
with four and then five fouls.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday in Los Angeles,
where the Sparks were 15-2 in the regular season. One of those
losses was to Seattle. The Storm are the only team to beat Los
Angeles more than once this season, now having taken three of four.

"We're going to come out ready on Sunday," said Sparks coach
Joe Bryant, who lamented the disparity between Seattle's 31 free
throws to Los Angeles' 15.

"Game 2 is going to be an absolute dogfight," said Sue Bird,
who scored all 12 of her points in the first half to lead Seattle
to a 42-36 halftime lead.

Leslie sank two free throws to pull the Sparks to within 70-66
with 2:27 remaining. That's when Jackson got help from someone
other than Burse. Iziane Castro Marques, who had missed her five
previous shots, made a 3-pointer over the Sparks' gap-filled zone.
Then she forced a Leslie turnover.

"I thought Castro was really the key defensively. She kept
getting her hand on the ball," Leslie said.

Marques ended the ensuing fast break with an assist on Jackson's
layup and three-point play. That gave Seattle a 73-66 lead and
sealed the win.

Seattle coach Anne Donovan called Marques' stunning shot "one
of the biggest plays of the game."

"It was so open, it almost developed in slow motion," Donovan
said.

Los Angeles and Leslie were in slow motion at the start.

Leslie, the league's third-leading scorer at 20 points per game
in the regular season, missed her first three shots and had a
turnover as Seattle took a 6-0 lead. But Leslie went 4-for-5 over
the remainder of the first half to lead Los Angeles back from an
early, 11-point deficit to within six.

Temeka Johnson's baseline jumper with 5:41 left in the third
quarter gave Los Angeles its first lead, 50-48. Johnson followed
that with a 3-pointer just over a minute later that put the Sparks
up 55-50.

But Seattle scored 11 of the first 13 points of the fourth
quarter to take a 68-61 lead with 5 minutes remaining. Betty
Lennox's 3-pointer gave Seattle a 64-61 lead, and Burse and Tiffani
Johnson followed with baskets.

The showdown between former MVPs Leslie and Jackson peaked late
in the third quarter, when Jackson blocked Leslie's turnaround
jumper in the lane before it ever left Leslie's hand. That started
a Seattle fast break and the night's loudest cheer.

Los Angeles started five-time All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw for
the first time this season. Holdsclaw, who averaged 15 points off
the bench in the regular season, had 13 on 6-for-12 shooting.

She left the game for 3½ minutes of the first quarter after
aggravating a ligament strain in her left foot. Holdsclaw will have
an MRI on Saturday, after which her status for Sunday may become
clearer.

Los Angeles need not despair. Teams have lost the opening game
and comeback to win a best-of-three series 14 times in league
history. The last time was last summer -- Seattle lost two straight
to lose its opening-round series against Houston.