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Swoopes scores 20 as Houston evens series

Associated Press

Sheryl Swoopes converted two defensive stands by Houston into four points in the final 3 minutes, and the Comets rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit to beat the Seattle Storm 67-64 Thursday night in Seattle.

The first-round, best-of-3 WNBA playoff series is tied at 1 apiece. Game 3 will be Saturday night in Seattle.

Swoopes scored 20 points for the Comets, 14 in the second half. Tina Thompson added 13 points, Janeth Arcain 12 and Michelle Snow 10.

Betty Lennox led Seattle with 16 points, but made just 6 of 20 shots. Nursing a sprained back, Lauren Jackson added 14 points and Janell Burse had 12.

The Comets trailed 47-37 with 15:30 left after consecutive 3-pointers by Iziane Castro Marques and Sue Bird.

The Storm’s shooting struggled from there, as they scored just eight points over the next 8 minutes, allowing the Comets to rally and take a 57-55 lead with 6:14 left on a reverse layup by Janeth Arcain. It was Houston’s first lead since 2-0.

Lennox then scored five straight points for Seattle, making a 20-foot jumper, then beating Dawn Staley on a baseline drive and converting a three-point play after being fouled by Snow, with 4:08 left.

Thompson scored for the Comets and Burse responded for Seattle, giving the Storm a 62-59 lead. Snow scored on a tough reverse, then Swoopes stole a pass from Bird and scored to put the Comets up 63-62 with 2:06 left.

Lennox was then called for a charge, and Swoopes was fouled at the other end, making both free throws.

Lennox scored on a layup with 30 seconds left, and Houston turned over the inbound pass. Lennox missed a short jumper, but Staley stole the rebound from Burse. Arcain was fouled and made both free throws. Bird and Lennox missed tough 3-point attempts in the final seconds.

Houston made 13 of 22 shots in the second half, and outscored Seattle 25-5 at the free-throw line. Houston has been swept once in playoff history – in 2001 by Los Angeles.

Fever 58, Liberty 50

At Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tamika Catchings and Natalie Williams knew what to expect from playoff-tested New York.

Catchings finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Fever over the Liberty and a sweep of the first-round WNBA playoff series.

The Fever advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time and will face the winner of the Connecticut-Detroit series, with the best-of-3 set to begin on Thursday.

Becky Hammon scored 14 points for the Liberty, who eliminated Indiana in three games in the Fever’s only other playoff appearance in 2002.

“When they beat us in New York, they were so physical. We were just getting beat up,” Catchings said of the Liberty’s playoff win three seasons ago. “We knew they were going to beat us up again tonight. We just had to keep attacking, and make them do something different.”

Williams said defense made the difference, especially after the Fever missed 20 of 21 shots during the second half.

“What it comes down to is what it has been all year – defense,” Williams said.

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