Sparks 75, Mercury 66
Sparks 75, Mercury 66
Aug. 19, 1997
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ The Los Angeles Sparks want the same environment at home that they have on the road.
Facing a critical stretch of four games as the regular season concludes this week, they made a few changes Monday night against the Phoenix Mercury.
``We came in without our family and friends in the locker room,'' Sparks star Lisa Leslie said. ``We tried to create a road-like atmosphere and I think it helped us.
``We tried not to pay attention to who was in the stands, or who was yelling. We were just playing ball.''
Leslie recorded her 11th double-double of the season with 26 points and 15 rebounds in the Sparks' 75-66 victory before 10,496 fans at the Forum. They are 4-5 at home since July 7.
The win cut the Mercury's lead to one game in the Western Conference with three to play, including Sunday's regular-season finale at Phoenix. The Sparks (12-13) lead the season series against Phoenix 2-1.
``It's going to be a dogfight,'' said Tamecka Dixon, who added a season-high-tying 23 points for the Sparks.
Mercury coach Cheryl Miller added fuel to the fire in a profanity-laced confrontation with Los Angeles assistant Orlando Woolridge as they walked off the floor.
Miller, who played and coached at Southern California, had to be restrained by her players.
``Cheryl Miller got very upset. I stood there with my hands wide open like what did I say. The next thing I know one of her players was coming out and yelling at me,'' Woolridge said. ``I was really hurt by that because I'm a professional.''
Miller didn't discuss the incident, and Phoenix closed its locker room earlier than the mandated 20-minute access period.
``They made their shots and we didn't down the stretch,'' Miller said. ``Defensively, our intensity wasn't consistent and that was the ball game.''
Before the rivals meet again, the Sparks host New York, second in the Eastern Conference, on Wednesday and Sacramento, already eliminated from playoff contention, on Friday.
``It's a big win,'' Los Angeles coach Julie Rousseau said. ``It's not the biggest win, the biggest win is still to come. Today was another step in the right direction. We have three more steps.''
Jennifer Gillom led the Mercury (13-12) with 18 points. Bridget Pettis added 12 points and Michele Timms 11.
``I don't think they contained me, I just had an off-night. I have some of those sometimes,'' Gillom said. ``The shots were there, I just couldn't put them down.''
The Sparks shot 44 percent from the floor, made 24-of-24 free throws and dominated the boards, 42-31.
Leslie's points were just two off her season high and she fell one rebound short of her season high of 16, despite playing with a headache. She said she's had flu-like symptoms since Saturday's game at Utah, which the Sparks won.
``Being sick has helped me to be more focused,'' she said. ``Sometimes you can use being sick as an excuse. I didn't want to.''
Los Angeles closed the game with an 8-1 run after the Mercury got within three points with 3:11 remaining on a basket by Tara Williams.
The Mercury never led and had their three-game winning streak snapped.
``It wasn't anything they did, they didn't do anything different the last two times we played them,'' Phoenix forward Toni Foster said.
The Sparks saw their 42-37 halftime lead cut to one point on two free throws by Marlies Askamp early in the second half.
But they bounced back and ran off nine straight _ including seven by Dixon _ for their largest lead of the game, 53-43.
The Mercury could not get closer than six points for the next eight minutes until Bridget Pettis converted four consecutive free throws to cut the Sparks' lead to 63-59 with 4:53 remaining.
Dixon and Leslie took over the game at that point. Leslie scored six of the Sparks' final 12 points, while Dixon had four.
Phoenix was held to five points over the final 4:09.