Sparks Rally for Overtime Win against Comets

Los Angeles82, Houston 74 (F)

LOS ANGELES, July 9 (AP) -- Candace Parker scored a career-high 40 points and had 16 rebounds, six assists and five blocks to help the Los Angeles Sparks rally for a 82-74 overtime victory against the Houston Comets on Wednesday night.

"She's only getting better,'' Sparks coach Michael Cooper said of Parker, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. "I think she's starting to figure this league out, and she's starting to figure out how our team can function and evolve with her - not around her, but with her.

"The reason why she's able to do what she does is because `Smooth' is still a force in this league.''

"Smooth'' is Lisa Leslie, who had 13 points for the Sparks (12-6), who moved within a half-game of first-place San Antonio in the WNBA's Western Conference.

"Our coaches really emphasize Smooth and I establishing the inside game,'' Parker said. "When you start hitting inside then crazy, fall-away, off-balance 3-pointers will bank in.

"We have great shooters so it's hard for opponents to come at us.''

Tina Thompson had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Comets (9-11), who committed 22 turnovers that resulted in 24 points. Sancho Lyttle added 12 points.

Trailing 69-68 with 1.6 seconds left in regulation, Parker made the second of two free throws to force a tie and send the game into overtime.

"I was really mad that I had to go into overtime,'' Parker said. "But we ended up coming out hot. I knew that when Shannon took the ball from Tina and Michelle Snow (off the overtime tipoff) that we were going to win.''

Los Angeles used an 8-0 run in the extra period to build a 77-69 lead with 2:50 to play. Marie Ferdinand-Harris led the spree with five points.

Houston did not score in the first 2:52 of overtime and missed six of eight shots.

Los Angeles, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, its first lead at 68-67 on Sidney Spencer's 3-pointer with 3:21 left in regulation.

Snow made two free throws to put the Comets ahead 69-68 with 3:01 left, before Parker tied the game.

Thompson scored 10 points as the Comets began the game with a 17-4 burst in the first 5:11.

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