Leslie Carries L.A. to Win

Times Staff Writer

Lisa Leslie played like an All-Star Wednesday even if she isn’t one -- yet.

It was not like she made a grand statement. It was more like sending a subtle message in the Sparks’ 74-62 victory over the Houston Comets at Staples Center.

Leslie finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and a team-high seven assists after finding out she was not among the starters in the WNBA All-Star game.

She scored 11 of her points in the first quarter, as the Sparks (14-5) roared to a 15-0 lead. L.A. cruised from that point and increased its Western Conference lead over the Comets (12-7) to two games.


Most important, the Sparks have won the season series against the Comets. The teams meet only one more time in the regular season, July 25 in Houston. Should they finish tied in the standings, the Sparks have the tie-breaker.

Chamique Holdsclaw led L.A. with 19 points. Temeka Johnson had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Starters Jessica Moore and Tamara Moore (no relation), who are primarily defenders, combined for 15 points and each made three of four shots.

The Sparks made 45.2% of their shots (28 of 62).

Houston, which had 13 points from Tina Thompson (before leaving because of a right calf strain) and 11 points from Dawn Staley, made only 33.3% of its shots (19 of 57).


“We made a conscious effort in practice and before the game to come together after” the loss to San Antonio, Jessica Moore said. “Everyone deep down had to look inside themselves and see what we had to do differently.”

Earlier in the day the starting lineups for the July 12 All-Star game were announced. Although Leslie had led the voting much of the way, Sacramento’s Yolanda Griffith got a late push to overtake the Sparks’ center. Griffith finished with 92,539 votes, while Leslie had 62,896.

There is little argument who is having the better season. Leslie entered Wednesday’s game ranked fourth in scoring (20.7), fourth in rebounding (9.3) and fourth in blocked shots (1.7). Griffith ranks 21st in scoring (12.2), 10th in rebounding (6.5) and 31st in blocked shots (.53)

“I’m always surprised when I’m even in the running, because we don’t really promote it here in L.A.,” Leslie said. “So I don’t know if our fans vote or don’t vote. I’m pretty much used to it by now.”

Leslie, who has played in all six All-Star games -- she has started four and twice was named the MVP -- should be among the reserves that will be announced Saturday.

“That will be a no-brainer,” L.A. Coach Joe Bryant said. “The fans vote for the starting lineup, and Sacramento has a really good fan base. They did what they need to do, what they’re supposed to do. But there’s no doubt she’ll be there.”

At halftime, the Sparks retired Penny Toler’s No. 11.