INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Lisa Leslie scored 20 points as the Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Sacramento Monarchs 73-68 Sunday and moved into first place in the WNBA's Western Conference.

Allison Feaster scored a career-high 18 points, in a reserve role, for the Sparks (21-3), Tamecka Dixon had 14 points and seven assists and DeLisha Milton had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Los Angeles won for the 17th time in 18 games and jumped a half-game ahead of the Houston Comets, who lost 69-64 to the New York Liberty.

Los Angeles has eight games left, Houston seven. If the teams are tied at season's end, the Sparks win the conference title because they took the season series against the Comets.

Yolanda Griffith had 19 points for the Monarchs (15-10) and Tangela Smith scored eight of her 10 points in the second half.

The Sparks trailed just once early in the game, but the Monarchs chipped away at the lead late in the second half. Sacramento tied it at 66 with 3:55 to play before 8,482 at the Forum.

After a Milton free throw and a reverse lay-up by Dixon put the Sparks up 69-66, Sacramento came back within one on Ruthie Bolton-Holifield's basket with 2:45 left.

The Sparks padded their lead with a basket by Leslie with 1:09 left and two Dixon free throws with 6.3 seconds remaining and the Monarchs didn't score again.

Sacramento point guard Ticha Penicherio, the league's assist leader, missed the game because of a sore right foot.