Without Jackson, Storm fall to SparksSep 20, 2008 - 4:46 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Seattle Storm desperately needed reigning MVP Lauren Jackson on Friday.
Sue Bird led all scorers with 23 points, but it was not enough as the second-seeded Storm dropped a 77-69 decision to the Los Angeles Sparks in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Jackson, who also was named league MVP in 2003, underwent surgery on her right ankle after suffering an injury while playing for Australia at the Beijing Olympics in August. She could return in time for the WNBA Finals, but judging from the way Seattle played in its playoff opener, the club will not make it that far.
Without Jackson in the lane, Sparks center Lisa Leslie and rookie forward Candace Parker both had strong performances. Leslie, a three-time MVP and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds while Parker, the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year Award, added 11 and eight.
Bird, who made 53 percent of her shots over the final five games of the regular season, continued her hot shooting, going 9-of-15 from the field. However, she recorded only one assist.
Tanisha Wright contributed 13 points and four boards for the Storm, who fell behind early and struggled to get back in the game.
The Sparks owned a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter and stretched their advantage to 44-27 at the half.
Seattle trimmed the deficit to eight points with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Los Angeles closed the session on an 8-4 run to build a 60-48 lead.
The Storm opened the fourth on a 13-7 run, capped by four straight points from Wright, to narrow the deficit to 67-61. But Seattle failed to score over the next 2:45 and the Sparks recorded seven points over that span to seal the victory.
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