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Leslie's double-double fuels Sparks' victory

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Who the short-handed Sparks play with Lisa
Leslie hardly matters. As long as the two-time MVP is in the
lineup, Los Angeles is in good shape.

Leslie had 25 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Sparks past the
San Antonio Silver Stars 80-71 on Thursday night.

The Sparks have used a different starting lineup in each of
their first three games, though Leslie has been a constant.

Six-time All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw has yet to play for Los
Angeles this season. Team officials said Holdsclaw is tending to a
"family matter." They expect her to practice with the team
Saturday in Los Angeles.

And Temeka Johnson, last season's WNBA Rookie of the Year who
was acquired in a trade with Washington during the offseason,
missed Thursday's game because of strained right quadriceps. She's
expected to miss at least two more games.

"More than anything, I knew I needed to step up -- not only
tonight, but this season," Leslie said.

Los Angeles led by as many as 15 points in the first half and
had a 14-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the game.

But the Silver Stars outscored Los Angeles 21-9 during the next
6:07 and trailed 69-67 when Vickie Johnson got an outlet pass to
Shannon Johnson for a fast-break layup with 1:53 remaining.

The Sparks got three free throws from Doneeka Hodges-Lewis, plus
a basket in the lane from Leslie to pull ahead by seven with 39
seconds left. Hodges-Lewis scored 14 points.

Kendra Wecker, who missed almost all of her rookie season a year
ago because of injury, came off the bench to score a career-high 16
points on 7-of-10 shooting for the Silver Stars (1-2).

Los Angeles has won nine straight over the Silver Stars since
the 2003 season.

Mwadi Mabika, who missed Tuesday's game at Charlotte because of
a sore knee, returned to the starting lineup Thursday for the
Sparks and was just 1-of-9 from the floor.

Leslie had her second straight game with at least 20 points and
15 rebounds. She scored 27 and had 16 rebounds Tuesday in a victory
over Charlotte.

"During preseason mini-camp she raised the bar and set the tone
for the entire team, embracing the role of team leader," Sparks
coach Joe Bryant said.

Leslie made 9-of-11 free throws, blocked four shots and had
three steals. Her six offensive rebounds helped Los Angeles to a
15-7 advantage on the offensive boards.

"You can't give a team like that second and third shots because
they are going to eventually knock it down," Wecker said.

Wecker was San Antonio's first-round draft choice last year. But
she played 11 minutes of the season opener before a knee injury
kept her out for the remainder of the year.

Leslie had a 10-point opening quarter -- on 4-of-5 shooting plus
five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot -- to lead the Sparks
to a 18-8 lead heading into the second quarter. San Antonio was
3-of-15 from the floor.

Los Angeles led by seven points to start the fourth. The Sparks
doubled that lead when Brandi Davis hit a 3-pointer and
Hodges-Lewis scored on a drive and a fast-break layup to make it
60-46 with 8:07 remaining in the game.