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Sparks prevail behind Parker

Rookie has 17 points and 15 rebounds, her 15th double-double, to help L.A. defeat first-place San Antonio, 58-53.

August 31, 2008|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Candace Parker sat in the middle of the basketball court at Staples Center after the Sparks' 58-53 victory over San Antonio on Saturday night and sang her alma mater.

That seemed appropriate, as the night belonged to Tennessee.

Its legendary coach, Pat Summitt, watched from the sideline as Parker scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and another Tennessee rookie, Shannon Bobbitt, scored six points in the closing minutes to help the Sparks hold off the first-place Silver Stars and move to within two games of the lead in the Western Conference.

Just as important, the Sparks have a two-game edge for the final playoff spot.

"This is a big game for us," said Parker, who produced her 15th double-double. "Down the stretch, we played some great defense and Shannon Bobbitt really came through."

The Silver Stars (19-10) were scoreless the final 2 minutes 39 seconds. They were held to a season-low point total and matched their lowest quarter, when they scored just seven points in the second quarter, allowing the Sparks to take a 25-23 lead into the half.

The Sparks (17-12) then went cold in the third, going five minutes without a field goal before Lisa Leslie ended the drought with a three-point basket at the 5:08 mark. By then, the Silver Stars had retaken the lead.

The Sparks used an effective double team on point guard Becky Hammon during the first half, holding her to just two field goals, but she got hot in the third, converting both of her three-point shots and scoring seven points to help the Silver Stars take a 41-35 lead entering the final quarter.

Leslie, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, picked up her fifth foul with 5:47 remaining, just before the Sparks cut the deficit to one on Temeka Johnson's outside shot, but with Leslie in foul trouble, San Antonio began attacking the basket and scored three straight field goals in the paint to move back ahead, 51-46, with 3:37 remaining.

Bobbitt then scored on a reverse layup off a baseline drive, and followed that with a three-point basket to cut the deficit back to one with 2:17 left.

Leslie then took control, converting two free throws and a running bank shot with 41 seconds remaining to give the Sparks a 56-53 lead. Bobbitt and Parker each made a free throw in the final 15 seconds.

"What a joy it was to coach her," Summitt said of Bobbitt at halftime. "She's just a sponge."

With Bobbitt in the starting lineup, the Sparks committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter and trailed, 16-11, to start the second. Parker scored two quick baskets in the opening minute of the second, forcing San Antonio to call a quick timeout, then converted a three-point play to give her team an 18-16 lead with 8:05 remaining in the half.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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