SEATTLE -- The Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks did
something rarely seen in the WNBA -- they had an all-out fight.
It was the most exciting play of the night.
With 9:51 left in the Storm's 79-60 victory Thursday, Seattle's
Michelle Marciniak and Los Angeles' Latasha Byears were ejected.
Byears was dribbling for a fastbreak layin when Marciniak
fouled her. Then Byears tossed the ball from close range off
Marciniak's face. Marciniak came at Byears with her hands up before
Byears shoved her to the ground.
Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper, who already had a technical
for arguing about the physical play, charged onto the court.
The fight followed a play in which Sparks star Lisa Leslie and
the Storm's Lauren Jackson battled for a rebound and Leslie elbowed
Jackson in the chest. No foul was called.
''Sometimes it takes a play like that for L.A. to know they're
not going to intimidate us on our court,'' Marciniak said.
Jackson scored 21 points and made three of Seattle's
franchise-best 13 3-pointers.
''This is the first time in my 3½ years here that we got our
(behinds) just totally kicked, and it don't feel good,'' Cooper
said. ''But now we know what all the other teams have felt like
that we've done this to.''
Leslie scored 21 points, had nine rebounds and six blocks to
lead the Sparks (14-3), who lost for the second time in four games.
Mwadi Mabika added 17 points for Los Angeles.
''We play them again. I feel bad for them,'' Leslie said.
It was a much better finish for Jackson than the last time the
teams played here. She scored in the Sparks' hoop in an 80-68 Los
Angeles victory June 18.
''Playing like we did showed us we have a lot of talent and we
can play with anyone,'' Jackson said.
Seattle rookie Sue Bird, caught yawning before the game after a
late-night flight back from the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, scored
13 points and handed out five assists, helping the Storm (9-10)
jump to a quick lead.
Bird won an ESPY award Wednesday for top college female athlete.
The Sparks averaged a league-leading 80.8 points in their
previous five games, but were held 19 points below their season
Substitute Felicia Ragland scored 19 on 5-for-6 shooting from
3-point range for Seattle.
The Storm shot 66.7 percent over the first nine minutes and 42.3
for the game, hitting 52 percent from 3-point range.
''They were hot,'' Leslie said. ''If (Storm coach) Lin Dunn had
subbed in she probably would have hit a basket, that's how good
Leslie missed five of her first six shots, shooting an airball
from close range early. Seattle built its biggest lead, 40-22, on a
3-pointer by Ragland with 3:48 left. The Storm made nine 3s in the
first half and led 45-23 at halftime.
''This game really proved to us and the WNBA that we can really
play,'' said Dunn, who believes Seattle still has a good chance to
make the playoffs as one of the Western Conference's top four
Los Angeles committed 19 turnovers.
Seattle activated 6-foot-2 rookie forward Takeisha Lewis
and placed guard Jamie Redd on the injured list. Lewis missed the
past five games with tendinitis in both knees. Redd has a sprained
left knee. ... The WNBA paid for Bird and Leslie to take a private
jet from the ESPYs to Seattle. ... Tamecka Dixon missed the game
due to the death of her grandmother. She was replaced in the
starting lineup by Sophia Witherspoon. ... Dunn will work to give
Bird more rest. She is averaging 36 minutes a game and Dunn would
like her to play 30 minutes. ... Adia Barnes had eight rebounds for