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Sparks Win It Without Leslie

Center is ejected at the end of the third quarter, but L.A. rallies past the Charlotte Sting, 66-64, and improves to 16-5, best in the WNBA.

July 09, 2006|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

The Sparks, playing for the second night in a row, were lethargic for most of Saturday's game against Charlotte. So, naturally, they looked to Lisa Leslie to provide a jolt of energy.

Leslie did exactly that, though not the way she planned.

She was driving to the basket, and missed a shot as the third quarter ended with the Sparks ahead by four points. Leslie thought she was fouled and spoke her mind.

She then threw up her arms and inadvertently struck referee Bryan Enterline in the chest. He called a technical foul and ejected Leslie.

The remaining Sparks built a six-point lead and lost it. But they had enough to rally past the Sting, 66-64, at Staples Center.

The Sparks (16-5) have the WNBA's best record at the All-Star break. The Sparks, who got 19 points from Chamique Holdsclaw and 11 each from Leslie and Tameka Johnson, lead second-place Houston in the Western Conference by 3 1/2 games.

Charlotte (3-15) had a chance to force an overtime. Johnson's free throw with 15 seconds to play gave the Sparks a 66-64 lead, but Charlotte had the ball.

Tangela Smith missed a layup with five seconds to play, however, and the Sting was unable to get off another shot.

Of course, that was not exactly the topic of discussion afterward.

Sparks President Johnny Buss was angered by Enterline's decision and said the official and Leslie have had "problems" in the past.

"I was very disappointed in Lisa getting thrown out the game," Buss said. "It was a ridiculous, very emotional call. We need to stop this.

"I kind of liken it to NASA. If NASA uses cheap parts, you know what happens."

Leslie, who Saturday was selected to the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve, said she did not try to hit Enterline.

"I didn't even see him," Leslie said. "I was trying to hit Chamique's hand. I was mad and said 'Foul,' but he didn't say anything so I said 'Forget it.'

"Chamique told me not to worry, I went to hit her hand.... I thought he thought I threw the ball at him. He said 'You elbowed me.' "

Charlotte, which like the Sparks shot 32.8%, had four players in double figures, led by Smith with 17 points.

Before the game, the Sparks team physicians met with Christi Thomas regarding the results of an MRI exam on her left knee. Thomas injured the knee in the second quarter of Friday's game against Indiana.

The diagnosis was a slight cartilage tear. For now, surgery is not planned, and Thomas is expected to be sidelined from one to two weeks.

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