Sparks 63

(23-8, 10-6 away)

Sun 72

(23-6, 14-2 home)

    7:00 PM ET, August 3, 2006

    Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

    1 2 3 4 T
    LA 4 19 21 1963
    CONN 13 15 25 1972

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: L. Leslie 18 Pts, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Connecticut: T. McWilliams-Franklin 22 Pts, 9 Reb, 2 Ast

    Sun overshadow Sparks in possible finals preview

    UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- Guarding Lisa Leslie can be a full-time job, but it didn't rattle Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

    The Connecticut forward scored 22 points to match her season high and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Sun to a 72-63 win over Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night. Leslie, who is having an MVP year, finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but struggled early against the Sun defense.

    "[Leslie] creates unique challenges because they give her the ball almost every single time up the court," McWilliams-Franklin said. "I don't think there's any other team whose player touches the ball more. Whether she's swinging it or trying to score, the ball goes to her and then the rest of the players.

    Leslie did score the Sparks' first two baskets but not until nearly 5 minutes had elapsed and was 2-of-8 in that stretch. McWilliams-Franklin, meanwhile, had no such problem. She had six of Connecticut's first eight points as the Sun opened with a 15-4 run.

    "Taj is one of the smartest players in the league," Leslie said. "She takes what the defense gives her. If you play up on her, she'll drive around you. If you play off, she'll shoot it. It's that simple."

    In a matchup of the WNBA's top two teams, the Sun (23-6) got out quickly to put the Western Conference leaders in a hole they never could quite climb back from. The Eastern Conference leaders also got 14 points from Katie Douglas to split the season series with the Sparks (23-8), who were playing their seventh of eight straight on the road.

    The Sun's backups, as they have all season, came up big again in this one. Reserve forward Asjha Jones dominated inside with 10 rebounds as the Sun outrebounded Los Angeles 45-35. Jamie Carey had a career-high nine points and three assists.

    "It's nice to have eight or nine people have a major impact on the game," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "We've been preaching about winning big games and playoff games -- you need to win two of three areas of rebounding, turnovers and free throws difference and we won them all tonight."

    Los Angeles sputtered under a stifling Sun defense in the first quarter and shot just 2-of-16 in the first 10 minutes. The Sun extended their lead to 11 in their first two possessions in the second quarter. Then both teams had to contend with the elements as a fierce thunderstorm outside dimmed the lights in the Mohegan Sun Arena, stopping play twice.

    When game resumed under generator-run lighting, the Sparks began to rally against the Connecticut reserves. An 8-0 run fueled by four points from Leslie cut the deficit to three.

    The Sun starters returned with 4:47 left and outscored the Sparks 10-7 the rest of the way to take a 28-22 lead at the break.

    Connecticut scored the first seven points of the second half and would lead by as many as 18.

    Lisa Willis and Doneeka Hodges-Lewis, who combined for 23 off the bench for Los Angeles, helped cut the lead to seven with 9:16 to play. The Sun then turned to McWilliams-Franklin who scored six in an 11-0 run and the Sparks never recovered.

    The Sparks were without Chamique Holdsclaw, who was sidelined with a foot injury.

    "We made a good run at it," Sparks coach Joe Bryant said. "Then, we just made some mistakes defensively. I always preach offense comes and goes but defense is everlasting."

    Bryant is hopeful his team will have another chance against the Sun, but this time with much higher stakes.

    "I think this would be a super finals with these two teams," he said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Los Angeles Connecticut
    Points 63 72
    FG Made-Attempted 26-67 (.000) 29-71 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 5-14 (.357) 3-14 (.214)
    FT Made-Attempted 6-9 (.000) 11-13 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 5-35 10-45
    Assists 14 23
    Turnovers 9 6
    Steals 6 7
    Blocks 1 2
    Fast Break Points 4 8
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 15 (0/0) 8 (0/0)