Parker dunks to cap win

Times Staff Writer

Lisa Leslie, remember her?

With all the attention directed at Sparks rookie Candace Parker -- who added to her reputation Sunday night by joining Leslie as the only players to dunk in a WNBA game -- it has been easy to overlook the league’s three-time most valuable player.

Leslie had another solid performance Sunday against the Indiana Fever, totaling a team-high 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots in a 77-63 victory at Staples Center.

But it was Parker who put the punctuation mark on the festivities with her dunk coming in only her 12th WNBA game on a night when she matched her season low with 10 points but also had 10 rebounds and four blocks.

She brought the crowd to its feet with a breakaway one-handed dunk with 29 seconds remaining in the game. Leslie recorded the WNBA’s only other dunk at Staples Center during the 2002 season.

“Just trying not to miss,” Parker said of her approach on the dunk. “It’s exciting to do it in front of Los Angeles, at home and on the same basket that Lisa did it on.”


A third of the way through this season, however, it’s Leslie who’s not only the steadiest player for the Sparks, but one who’s gradually building another case for league most valuable player.

“I’m trying to just be consistent,” said Leslie, who sat out last season after giving birth to her daughter, Lauren. “Every night is always a challenge . . . I thought earlier in the season, I was kind of dying out by the third quarter, so I’m feeling like I’m getting a little bit stronger and stronger every game.”

Her numbers against the Fever were remarkably similar to her career and season averages.

Leslie entered her 12th WNBA season averaging 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.25 blocks, all franchise bests. Entering the Indiana game, the first of seven consecutive home games for the Sparks (9-3), she was averaging 17 points, and a league-high 9.8 rebounds and 3.45 blocks.

Her consistency isn’t just limited to game performances, teammates say.

“She does all the little things,” said Marie Ferdinand-Harris, who sat out the 2006 season after the birth of her son, Cedric. “She stays after practice, she works hard, she works in the weight room. Being that she just had a baby, she worked three times harder than everybody.”

Leslie, who will turn 36 on July 7, was her usual self in the first half, collecting 12 points on five-for-seven shooting, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The 6-foot-5 center even dived to the court for a loose ball late in the first half, eliciting an appreciative cheer from the crowd of 9,463.

On the Sparks’ next possession, she laid in an alley-oop pass from Temeka Johnson, giving the Sparks a 39-26 lead, which they maintained at the half.

“Right from the beginning, she asserted herself, wanted the ball, wanted to score down there,” Indiana Coach Lin Dunn said of Leslie. “I was real impressed with her play.”

Johnson, who lost her starting point guard role last week to Kiesha Brown, had her best game of the season, scoring 10 points.

She had two steals in the final 39.9 seconds of the third quarter and converted those into four free throws, giving the Sparks a 60-46 lead heading into the fourth.