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Milton's Magic Finishes Mystics

July 23, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

DeLisha Milton was feeling angry as the Sparks trudged to their locker room after the first half of Tuesday's game against Washington.

In her previous two games, Milton had missed enough layups to fill a pickup truck. And on Tuesday, there was Milton, a five-year veteran who may be the best all-round defender in the WNBA, watching Mystic forward Chamique Holdsclaw rip through the Spark defense in the first half with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

"I was angry that we were down, not because of Chamique's performance," Milton said.

"That's expected of her. She's going to score. You can't stop her every possession; if I had tried that, I probably would have fouled out."

So Milton decided that turnabout is fair play. She scored 15 of her season-high 23 points in the second half, ignited a 14-0 run to help the Sparks erase an eight-point halftime deficit, and bulled through Holdsclaw for -- yes -- a layup to end a 73-73 tie with 34 seconds to play. It ultimately proved to be the winning basket in the Sparks' 77-73 victory over Washington before 10,429 at Staples Center

The victory broke a two-game losing streak for Los Angeles (17-5) and ended a three-game winning streak for Washington (5-15).

Milton couldn't avoid a little postgame woofing.

"It was a situation where, I didn't think she could guard me [under the basket]," Milton said of Holdsclaw. "She doesn't like a physical game. She tries to [act] like she can play it, but it's not there.

"When it comes down to a matter of heart, I know that I have it over her. She may have youth, but I have heart."

Coach Michael Cooper was happy to see the Sparks -- at least for a game -- snap out of the funk that seems to engulf them at Staples Center.

"This looked like a game where we finally started to gel," Cooper said. "This was a game we could have lost, but wanted to win. We played better defense in the second half," holding Washington to nine-for-32 shooting in the second half and 39.4% shooting for the game.

Four Mystics scored in double figures, led by Holdsclaw's 24 points and 17 rebounds, but the other four Washington players who scored totaled eight.

For the Sparks, Mwadi Mabika had 22 points -- her fourth game in a row with 20 points or more -- and Nikki Teasley added 14.

Milton had reason to be down at halftime with the Sparks trailing, 45-37, but once L.A. got rolling, Washington could not recover.

"It was the first time in the past four games someone put a run on us that we didn't answer quickly," Washington Coach Marianne Stanley said.

"I was disappointed with our energy level coming out of the locker room. They came right at us.... Give them credit, they came out and did what they had to do."

*

Swin Cash and Ruth Riley led five Detroit players in double figures with 14 points apiece to lead the Shock to a 74-71 victory over Cleveland before 11,105 at Auburn Hills, Mich.

The victory extended Detroit's winning streak to four games and increased its Eastern Conference lead to three games over Charlotte.

LaToya Thomas led the Rockers with 17, while Chasity Melvin added 15 points and nine rebounds.

-- From Associated Press

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