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Saturday, September 29, 2012
Sparks 101, Silver Stars 94

Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Candace Parker was sickened after watching a video of Los Angeles' previous playoff loss to San Antonio, so she was determined not to let it happen to the Sparks again.

Parker scored 32 points and Los Angeles beat the Silver Stars 101-94 Saturday to complete a sweep of their Western Conference semifinals series.

Sophia Young had 23 points for San Antonio, which took three of four from Los Angeles during the regular season and lost the series opener 93-86 in Los Angeles on Thursday night. Jia Perkins added 16 points, Becky Hammon had 15, Danielle Adams 12 and Shameka Christon 11.

Los Angeles will face the winner of the other West series, which defending champion Minnesota leads 1-0 heading into Sunday's game at Seattle.

The Sparks advanced after surviving a furious comeback in the fourth quarter by the Silver Stars, who were forced to play at the Freeman Coliseum due to a concert at the AT&T Center.

The rally was reminiscent of Game 2 of the 2008 Western Conference Finals, when Young's jumper with .6 seconds left gave the Silver Stars a one-point win en route to the team's only berth in the WNBA Finals. Parker watched video of that loss Friday on the team's flight to San Antonio.

"On the flight I got sick, like sick to my stomach," Parker said. "I will never forget that. Today it wasn't necessarily a shot, but it was going through my head as they made their run. This would be a historic comeback for them if they beat us and we had to go back to L.A. to play. It came down a couple of possessions and we were able to capitalize."

Kristi Toliver added 23 points, Alana Beard had 17 and DeLisha Milton-Jones 10 for the Sparks.

Milton-Jones' three-point play completed a 15-2 run by the Sparks for a 73-51 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

"We got out and ran," Toliver said. "We got stops and we tried to win the battle of the boards and get out and run to get those easy possessions. We didn't want to settle for jump shots, we wanted to be aggressive and get good shots."

San Antonio outscored Los Angeles 28-19 in the final quarter, but the Sparks went 7 for 8 on free throws in the final 2 minutes to seal the victory.

After trailing by 22 points, the Silver Stars used a smaller lineup at the start of the fourth quarter. The team responded with a 13-0 run to bridge the third and fourth quarters.

"I decided to play small ball," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "I wanted the element of spreading the floor at that point. We had been trying to do that scheme (earlier), but we had better quickness on the floor. . . I just wish I had gone to that small lineup earlier."

Perkins and Christon each hit a 3-pointer during the run to pull San Antonio to 82-74 with 8 minutes left. Christon added another 3 and made a pair of free throws to forge a 90-all tie with 3 minutes left in the game.

The Silver Stars had opportunities to take the lead, but Hammon had a 3-pointer go in and out of the basket and Danielle Robinson had a jumper roll around the rim before dropping off.

"They always say football is a game of inches, sometimes basketball is a game of inches," Hammon said. "We knock down a shot and all of a sudden the weight of the world is on their shoulders, but we didn't get them to relinquish that lead. We tied it, but we never took that lead. Sometimes, just mentally (losing a big lead) can be so depleting."

But the Sparks responded by rebounding shots by Hammon and Robinson and turning them into free throws after the Silver Stars were forced to foul.

Nneka Ogwumike's jumper and two free throws by Parker gave Los Angeles the lead for good, at 94-90.

"At some point we knew San Antonio was going to make their run," Toliver said. "They are too good of a team not to. They knew their season was on the line and they acted like it. They responded to adversity and we did the same thing right back. We didn't fold, we didn't get too down on ourselves. We just had to remind ourselves that we still had the lead."

The Sparks' defense spurred a 12-0 run beginning early in the first quarter.

The Silver Stars went on a 6-0 run at the close of the first to pull to 23-16, but Toliver calmly made a 3-pointer over Adams with 2.6 seconds left to extend the lead to 26-16.

Parker scored 10 points in the first quarter.

The Silver Stars were forced out of the AT&T Center due to a sold-out concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and into the Freeman Coliseum. Game officials had to use an air horn during timeouts and there were no video screens available for the public.

"I don't want to make excuses, they played under the same conditions," Hammon said. "The one thing I will say, as shooters, the lighting is very dark in there. We definitely would have liked to play in the AT&T Center. It wasn't what cost us the game, but it would have been nice. We worked all season for the most important game and it would have been nice to be at home."

Neither game in the series was played at the teams' usual arena, as the opener in Los Angeles was played at USC's Galen Center due to a "Batman Live" show at Staples Center.