Leslie Leads Way as the Sparks Fly

Times Staff Writer

The closer the Sparks get to the playoffs, the more Lisa Leslie is raising her play. And on Thursday, she rose to a rarified height.

Against the defending league champion Detroit Shock, Leslie had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocked shots for only the third triple-double in WNBA history. Sheryl Swoopes, in 1999, and Margo Dydek, in 2001, are the other players to have accomplished the feat.

The 10 blocked shots also equaled the league record first set by Dydek.

Leslie’s big game made it easy for the Sparks, who rolled to an 81-63 victory in front of 9,368 at Staples Center. Los Angeles (22-8) has a 3 1/2 -game lead over Seattle in the Western Conference.


“I played with Lisa [at USC] and I know how much she still has left,” Spark co-Coach Karleen Thompson said.

“She came back from the Olympics unbelievably focused and is keeping all of us working to try and win a championship.”

Said a laughing Leslie: “It reminds me of Magic [Johnson]. That’s who you think of when you think ‘triple-doubles.’ I almost had another one once, but that would have been with 10 turnovers. So I think it’s a great accomplishment; I never thought I would do this in my career.”

Leslie had help. Nikki Teasley had a career-high six three-point baskets and a career-high 25 points.

“This was important for us,” said Teasley, who made eight of 15 shots from the field.

“We can enjoy it for a moment, but we have to let it go, because we have another tough team [Sacramento] on Sunday.”

The loss sent the reeling Shock (14-17), who had 19 points from Swin Cash and 18 points and 11 rebounds from Cheryl Ford (playing in front of dad and NBA standout Karl Malone), to the Eastern Conference cellar. Detroit may miss the playoffs altogether.


The Sparks had to expect that Detroit, desperately trying to stay in the playoff chase, would play with a sense of urgency.

That’s exactly what the Shock players did in the first half, driving and forcing their way to the basket at every opportunity and shooting free throws in bunches (17 of 23). That, along with a 21-18 rebounding edge, compensated for Detroit’s making only nine of 29 shots.

But the Sparks held a 37-35 lead at the break, primarily because of Leslie’s dominating play inside with 12 points and Teasley’s five three-point baskets.

Teasley’s first-half output equaled the number of three-point baskets she made against Charlotte on June 9.

Teasley, who also blocked a Cash shot and drew a charge on the Detroit forward, had 16 points.

Leslie and Christi Thomas each had three fouls in the first half while trying to contain the relentless Ford who, despite making only two of 10 shots, had 13 points and seven rebounds. And the Sparks had 14 turnovers.


“The game plan was to stop their transition, because we felt in the half-court they are not as effective,” Teasley said. “So that is what we focused on. But the [14] fouls were unacceptable.”

The Sparks came out in the second half in a defensive frame of mind, but they didn’t start to pull away until 10:52 remained. That’s when Leslie blocked three consecutive layup attempts by Ford. The Sparks, leading 56-51 at the time, went on to outscore the Shock, 13-5, over the next 4:51 to take command, 69-56.



Three of a Kind

Lisa Leslie turned in the third triple-double performance in WNBA history in the Sparks’ victory over Detroit. The triples:

* Sheryl Swoopes, Houston vs. Detroit, July 27, 1999 -- 14 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists.

* Margo Dydek, Utah vs. Orlando, June 7, 2001 -- 12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocked shots.

* Lisa Leslie, Sparks vs. Detroit, Sept. 9, 2004 -- 29 points, 15 rebounds, 10 blocked shots.