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Sparks Have No Problem With Comets

Teasley makes five three-point shots and has 18 points in 71-62 victory, L.A.'s third in a row at Compaq Center.

June 25, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — How times have changed.

It wasn't that long ago the Sparks would rather visit a morgue than travel to Texas to play the Comets.

But Compaq Center is starting to become the Sparks' second home.

A 71-62 victory over Houston, before 10,610, gave the Sparks their third consecutive win on the Comets' home floor. The win not only pushed the Sparks Western Conference-leading record to 11-2, it has Los Angeles feeling better about itself after losses last week against Detroit and Seattle.

"Even when we won those first nine games we knew we weren't as good a team as we're going to be," said Tamecka Dixon, who had 14 points. "We're just trying to get better, and hopefully at the end of the year we will be playing our best."

Any win over their bitter rival is a good one to the Sparks.

But there were plenty of things to celebrate in Tuesday's victory.

Start with the fact the Comets (6-7) never led, and tied the score only once -- 2-2. The Sparks, who shot 48.3% and made half of their 16 three-point shots, led, 37-26, at halftime and by as many as 17 points in the second half before withstanding a couple of late Houston runs.

"We knew Houston wouldn't give us anything less than [a big effort]," Spark Coach Michael Cooper said. "But I thought we kept our poise. We only had 10 turnovers, and I've always said that if we don't beat ourselves it will be tough for teams to beat us."

Nikki Teasley tied her career high with five three-pointers and led the Sparks with 18 points. Both Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton had 15 points.

"I was just reading their defense," said Teasley, who didn't miss a three-point shot. "I was thankful my teammates saw I was in a rhythm."

Milton was the other Spark to make more than one three-pointer, and her second was the most important. Houston, which received 19 points from Sheryl Swoopes and 15 points from Tina Thompson, had closed to 66-62 before Milton made her three-pointer from the corner with 57.3 seconds to play to wrap up the win.

"I am feeling more confident," said Milton, who has struggled at times after her long European season. "I've told myself to just play ball and be free. And that's what I'm doing. I'm no longer worrying about the shot before I take it."

The win was tempered, however, by growing concern.

Cooper admitted to being worried about Mwadi Mabika's ailing right leg. She did not play in Phoenix, did not practice leading up to the Houston game, and did not start Tuesday. She played 23 minutes and scored four points.

Cooper hesitates to put Mabika -- who, like Milton, had a long European winter season -- on the injured list because he feels the rest of his squad can fill in at the positions Mabika plays, shooting guard and small forward.

"We'll take it game to game," Cooper said. "We have enough people to sustain things until she gets better. We're not a team where five people have to play a set position. We can move some people around, which is a luxury we have. And we'd rather have [Mwadi] at the end of the season than right now."

Mabika said her problem is having very tight quadriceps that are pulling on her joints, creating the pain in her leg.

"I know I need to rest it," Mabika said, but she's not asking to leave the lineup.

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