LOS ANGELES -- Lisa Leslie had 28 points and 18 rebounds and the Los Angeles Sparks swept the four-time defending champion Houston Comets out of the WNBA playoffs for the first time with a 70-58 victory Monday night.
The Sparks won their 17th consecutive game at Staples Center, where they went 16-0 in the regular season. They swept the best-of-three series and advanced to the Western Conference finals against Sacramento beginning Friday.
Houston's loss means the league will have a new champion for the first time in its five-year history. The Comets won the first four WNBA championships, including sweeping Los Angeles in the conference finals a year ago Monday.
The Comets suffered a huge blow when they lost Tina Thompson with 11:03 remaining after she went down under Houston's basket, yelling in pain and grabbing her left leg. Thompson was carried to the locker room with the Comets trailing 48-45. She injured her left calf and did not return. She finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three turnovers.
Her teammates briefly responded, and after trailing the entire second half, took a 51-50 lead on two free throws by Tiffani Johnson. Janeth Arcain, who came off the bench when Thompson went out, hit a driving layup for a 54-52 lead with 5:58 remaining. Arcain led the Comets with 18 points.
But the Sparks, who blew an 11-point lead early in the half, regrouped and ran off 14 straight points to take a 66-54 lead with 2:35 remaining. That put the game away, and sent the fans into a frenzy.
Ahead 56-54, the Sparks blocked Johnson's shot, then Tamecka Dixon and Ukari Figgs scored on consecutive fastbreak layups. Figgs was fouled and made the free throw.
Dixon added 12 points and Figgs had 11. The Sparks dominated the boards 41-31, a major difference from Game 1 Saturday, which they won 64-59 at Houston.
Sting 72, Rockers 64
CLEVELAND -- The Charlotte Sting, who saved their regular season with a remarkable turnaround, extended their postseason Monday night with a 72-64 victory over the Cleveland Rockers to advance to the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals.
Tonya Edwards scored 15 points, Andrea Stinson had 14, and Tammy Sutton-Brown and Shalonda Enis added 12 apiece as the Sting won the best-of-three series 2-1.
Charlotte was 1-10 after a loss to Sacramento on June 24, but has won 19 of 24.
The Sting built a 13-point lead in the second half and held off the Rockers, whose lost just the third of 18 home games this season.
The Sting will face the winner of the Miami-New York series in the best-of-three conference finals.
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