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No Spark Without Holdsclaw

Seattle takes advantage with WNBA's leading scorer sidelined and charges to a 78-70 win.

July 17, 2005|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Another day, another player out because of injury. So continues the Sparks' achy 2005 season.

The DNP -- as in did not play -- was a key one. Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA's leading scorer, was unable to go on Saturday against Seattle, hobbled because of a strained left hamstring injured in Tuesday's victory over Charlotte. So she sat on the bench next to Tamecka Dixon, another of the walking wounded who is resting a sore knee.

The Sparks did what they could to overcome the loss of 19 points and 7.6 rebounds -- Holdsclaw's averages -- but dropped a 78-70 decision to the Storm in front of an announced crowd of 10,151 at Staples Center.

The victory was the second in as many nights for the defending WNBA champion Storm (10-10), who tightened up the Western Conference playoff race another notch.

By losing, Los Angeles (10-8) dropped out of tie for second with Houston and into a tie for third with Minnesota.

Seattle got to .500 for the first time since June 28, and is the fifth Western Conference team with at least 10 victories.

Holdsclaw vowed she would be back for Tuesday's game against Washington.

"It was really tight," she said.

"I got treatment on it with [trainer] Marco [Nunez]. He said I couldn't go tonight and that was it. Get ready for the next game."

Lisa Leslie had 19 points and eight rebounds for L.A. Mawadi Mabika had 14. Christi Thomas added 10 points off the bench.

But was not enough to offset Seattle forward Lauren Jackson, who had 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Jackson also had the kind of help that Leslie and Mabika did not. Betty Lennox had 16 points and Sue Bird added 14.

Seattle also won the rebounding battle (31-24) and was effective from the three-point range, making nine of 17. The Sparks were only five of 19 from long distance.

"Getting better defensively and in rebounding -- that's been our nemesis in the recent losses," Seattle Coach Anne Donovan said. "I think it's focus and staying confident. We know we're a good basketball team. And we're getting back to the good stuff hopefully at the right time."

Spark Coach Henry Bibby only wants a healthy roster.

"It's been like this since day one," said Bibby of the various injuries. "We're trying to piece it together.... I thought with the exception of about 4-5 minutes we played pretty well. I applaud the ladies, they're working hard. But we're not completely healthy. We've got to go with what we have."

Said Leslie: "We all think that when we're all healthy we'll be a lot stronger. Having eight or nine players consistently all year is not enough. Hopefully we'll get healthy and be ready to play, pull together some more and get some more wins."

Both teams struggled to sustain an offensive flow in the first half. The Sparks shot 40.7% (11 of 27) and the Storm were marginally better at 41.4% (12 of 29).

But in the final five minutes the Storm had the game's first real spurt, going on a 14-3 run to charge to a 36-28 lead. Tamika Whitmore dropped in two free throws in the final seconds to cut L.A.'s deficit to 36-30 at halftime.

The lead would balloon to 65-49 before the Sparks began to rally.

Los Angeles ran off eight consecutive points, cutting the margin in half, and got as close as 75-70 with 30 seconds to play. But no closer.

Earlier in the day the Sparks signed free agent Jessica Moore for the remainder of the season. She made her Spark debut with five minutes left in the first half.

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