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Sparks Sweep Into West Finals

The Los Angeles Sparks were too much for the Phoenix Mercury.

Lisa Leslie scored 29 points as the Sparks beat the Phoenix Mercury 101-76 on Sunday to sweep the best-of-three WNBA first-round playoff series.

Phoenix kept it close until Los Angeles' 14-2 run in the second half extended the Sparks' lead to 20 points.

"For the first half and the first seven minutes, we were right there with them," Phoenix coach Cheryl Miller said. "They just kept putting in more athletes and we just simply ran out of gas."

The Sparks will play at either Houston or Sacramento on Thursday night to open the Western Conference final. Houston leads Sacramento 1-0, with Game 2 on Monday night in Houston.

Leslie was 12-for-17 from the field and 5-for-7 from the line. Leslie and Mwadi Mabika each had eight rebounds, leading the Sparks to a 37-22 advantage.

Mabika also scored 15 points, Tamecka Dixon added 14 points and seven assists, and DeLisha Milton had 11 points.

Jennifer Gillom and Lisa Harrison each scored 16 points for Phoenix. Tonya Edwards added 12 points and Brandy Reed had 11 for the Mercury, who dropped the opener 86-71 at home.

The Sparks led 42-36 at halftime, and the Mercury could get no closer than six points in the second half. A 3-point shot by Edwards trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 65-57 with 11:45 left, but the Sparks responded with the 14-2 run to make it 79-59.

"We came out and established everything that we wanted to," said Sparks coach Michael Cooper.

The Sparks went on a 10-0 run to take a 27-14 lead. The Mercury outscored Los Angeles 22-15 during the remainder of the first half to draw within six points.

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