3:30 PM ET, August 31, 2002
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Lisa Leslie had 23 points and nine rebounds as the Los Angeles Sparks defeated the New York Liberty, 68-62, in a WNBA exhibition opener for both teams on Saturday.Becky Hammon scored 16 and Bethany Donaphin 10 for the Liberty, which played without three starters. Small forward Crystal Robinson and shooting guard Vickie Johnson were completing their commitments to their European teams, while center Tari Phillips was sidelined because of a fractured fourth metacarpal in her left hand.Second-round draft choice Doneeka Hodges scored 12 points in 13 minutes for the Sparks before a crowd announced at 2,986 at the Pyramid at California State University, Long Beach.Rookie guard April McDivitt's 3-point basket with 5:36 remaining pulled New York to within three, 62-59. Los Angeles got lay-ups from Tamika Whitmore, a former Liberty forward playing in her first game for the Sparks, and Leslie, to go up 66-59, with 2:41 remaining.McDivitt's 3-point basket with 27.1 seconds left cut the deficit to 66-62, but Teresa Weatherspoon sealed the victory by making two free throws with 20.3 seconds to play.Sparks All-Star forward DeLisha Milton-Jones did not play as she continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.