With 1:13 remaining in Game 2, Storm star Lauren Jackson was substituted out of the matchup. As she happily slapped high-fives with teammates, leading by 15, the 6-foot-5 Australian released an inaudible sigh.
At last her Storm advance in the postseason.
Two late 3-pointers by guard Sue Bird provided the final daggers to ward off Seattle’s five-year curse of being bumped in the opening round of the WNBA playoffs. The Storm beat the Los Angeles Sparks 81-66 on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, sweeping the best-of-3 series.
Top-seeded Seattle will play No. 2 seed Phoenix on Thursday at Seattle’s KeyArena in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Western Conference finals.
“There’s a slight amount of relief. But I stress the word ‘slight’ because I know what we’re in for in watching Phoenix play the last two games and they’re a little bit ridiculous right now,” said Jackson, who led all scorers with 24 points and nine rebounds.
Heading into this postseason, the Storm had a 3-8 all-time playoff record against Los Angeles, losing the past two without Jackson due to ankle and back injuries.
The Storm, a league-best 28-6 during the regular season, swept Phoenix in five games during the regular season, but haven’t defeated the defending champions in the postseason, losing 0-2 in the first round in 2007.
“I’m glad this over and now we’re moving on,” Jackson said.
Mercury 92, Silver Stars 73
Defending champion Phoenix made quick work of San Antonio.
Diana Taurasi scored 23 points and Tangela Smith added 16 as the Mercury jumped to a 19-point lead in the first quarter and beat the Silver Stars 92-73 in San Antonio, completing a sweep of their Western Conference semifinals series.
Phoenix has eliminated San Antonio from the playoffs three times in four years. The previous two times – 2007 and 2009 – the Mercury went on to win the WNBA championship.
Becky Hammon led the Silver Stars with 21 points and seven assists. Sophia Young had 15 points and Ruth Riley added 13.