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Sparks' Game 1 win feels like old times to Leslie

With her jersey in the rafters at Galen Center, she scores 22 points to lead L.A. to an 85-70 win over San Antonio.

September 26, 2008|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Not in Lisa Leslie's house, not on her court.

With her retired number hanging from the rafters at the Galen Center and her name inscribed on each corner of the court, Leslie returned to her alma mater Thursday night at USC and was less than hospitable to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Leslie had a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots to lead the Sparks to an 85-70 victory in the opening game of the best-of-three Western Conference finals.

"To be back here felt really good, especially to have the Sparks' floor down," Leslie said. "The unfortunate part is there was a USC football game tonight."

Leslie left to a standing ovation after fouling out with 1:15 remaining in the game. By then, the Sparks were well on their way to victory. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in San Antonio.

"San Antonio is the best team in the West, so we know we have our work cut out for us," Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said.

The Sparks should feel confident after playing one of their best games of the season. They shot 52.9% from the field and received contributions from some unlikely sources. Temeka Johnson came off the bench to score a season-high 14 points and Marie Ferdinand-Harris continued her stellar postseason play, scoring 14 to put her in double digits for the third time in four playoff games.

"That's my LSU connection," Cooper said.

Raffaella Masciadri didn't play Tuesday night in the series-clinching victory over the Seattle Storm, but she also contributed, starting in place of Kiesha Brown at shooting guard and making Cooper look like a genius, sinking three baskets in the first five minutes.

San Antonio closed the quarter with an 8-0 run, however, and led, 26-17, heading into the second.

The Sparks turned things around at that point, making 12 of 17 shots in the second quarter and outscoring San Antonio, 31-13, to take a 48-39 halftime lead.

Johnson made her first three-pointer of the season early in the second quarter. She made another later in the quarter to highlight an 11-0 run that pushed the lead to 46-39. Masciadri tallied the final basket of the half, her fourth field goal in five attempts.

The Sparks played San Antonio even in the third quarter, then opened the fourth with two baskets from reserve forward Jessica Moore and a jump shot by Leslie. The Silver Stars made one last run, however.

Leslie was called for her fifth foul with 6:07 remaining and Cooper took her out. The Silver Stars responded by scoring on three consecutive possession to cut the lead to 74-68 with 4:55 remaining, but Ferdinand-Harris hit a pull-up jumper and Leslie returned to the game and scored off an inbounds pass to push the lead back to double digits.

San Antonio point guard Becky Hammon, who came in averaging 19.3 points in the postseason, was kept in check, finishing with nine points on three-for-10 shooting.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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