- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Once again, the Washington Mystics proved no match for a team from the West.

The defending Western Conference champion Los Angeles Sparks continued the Mystics’ troubles, walking away with an easy 95-79 win before 12,117 last night at MCI Center. Washington fell to 1-2 on the season and 17-47 all time against teams from the other conference.

The Sparks’ starters outscored the Mystics’ starters 79-44.

“We need to get better production from our starters, or we’re going to have to look at other people starting,” Mystics coach Michael Adams said.

Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw did her part, finishing with 29 points and 10 rebounds. The point total tied her own mark for the fourth highest in franchise history.

The rest of the Mystics couldn’t keep up with the Sparks, however. Forwards Mwadi Mabika and DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 20 points apiece. Center Lisa Leslie contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and point guard Nikki Teasley, a Washington native, had 14 points and 10 assists.

“We just decided we were going to pound the ball inside to our bigs because we know they’re good,” Mabika said. “Lisa and DeLisha are good, so we decided we had to give them the touches.”

Los Angeles (1-1) lost its season opener to the Seattle Storm on Saturday in surprising fashion — 93-67 — likely sparking last night’s rout. Before the game was five minutes old the Sparks had a double-digit lead. Los Angeles led 14-3 with 15:13 before halftime, and Leslie scored 10 of the Sparks’ first 18 points.

“The score is indicative of how we played Sparks ball tonight,” Milton-Jones said.

Foul trouble to several Los Angeles players — Leslie, high-scoring guard Tamecka Dixon and backup center Laura Macchi had three fouls — helped the Mystics climb back into the game at the free throw line. The Mystics made 13 of 18 free throws in the first half and took a 23-22 lead on two Alana Beard free throws with 9:06 before halftime.

Leslie, the only WNBA player besides Holdsclaw to average a double-double last season, played only 13 minutes in the first half because of her foul problems.

In her absence, Sparks forward Tamika Whitmore, a free agent from the New York Liberty, helped the Sparks create some separation in the waning minutes of the first half with six of her nine first half points in the final 2:38.

Two huge plays by Holdsclaw in the final seconds prevented the Sparks from taking a double-digit lead into the locker room. Holdsclaw, who had 19 points and six rebounds in the half, banked home an improbable, hanging, right-handed shot from eight feet with 21.5 seconds left to cut the deficit to 49-39. She then put an exclamation point on her terrific half by nailing a 29-foot heave at the buzzer to leave the Mystics back 49-42 at halftime.

The Mystics’ bench was one of the few bright spots. Led by backup point guard Kiesha Brown’s career-high 13 points, the Mystics reserves outscored their Sparks counterparts 35-16. Mystics reserve forward Aiysha Smith matched her career high with 10 points off the bench.

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