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Sparks-Fever Preview
By MATT BECKER, STATS Writer

With the return of three-time league MVP Lisa Leslie and the addition of No. 1 overall pick Candace Parker, the Los Angeles Sparks believe they can make a championship run.

The Indiana Fever also feel like they are a title contender following the acquisition of two-time All-Star Katie Douglas.

The Sparks and Fever look to continue their strong starts when they meet Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

After scoring 34 points - the most in a WNBA debut - grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out eight assists in her first game, Parker had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Los Angeles' 74-56 victory over expansion Atlanta on Sunday.

The Sparks (2-0), who defeated defending league champion Phoenix 99-94 on May 17, have opened with consecutive wins for the first time since starting 9-0 in 2003.

Los Angeles hasn't won a title since 2002, and finished with the league's worst record last season while Leslie was on maternity leave. The team has a new feel this year, though.

Leslie had 14 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday, while DeLisha Milton-Jones added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and eight boards.

"Over time, with more games, our chemistry should be able to grow even better than what it is now," Leslie said.

The Sparks led by 20 at halftime on Sunday after holding the Dream to just six second-quarter points. Los Angeles limited Atlanta to just 29.2 percent shooting in the game and leads the league in field goal defense at 37.3 percent.

"We're long and very active,'' said Leslie, who blocked six shots Sunday. "We can easily make switches between our perimeter and post players. It's kind of a luxury for us.''

The Fever (2-1) led by Douglas, a three-time all-defensive first-team selection, have also been winning with suffocating defense.

Indiana routed Connecticut 75-46 on Tuesday, as it held the Sun to 30.0 percent shooting (18-of-60) from the floor and only 3-of-21 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range. Connecticut entered Tuesday's game averaging 88.0 points en route to a 3-0 record.

The Fever lead the league in scoring defense with an average of 58.3 ppg and are third in field goal defense at 39.9 percent.

Indiana, which was eliminated by Detroit in last season's Eastern Conference finals, acquired Douglas from Connecticut in February with hopes she could lead the team to its first championship. Douglas led the Sun to consecutive East titles in 2004 and 2005.

She scored 23 points against her former team Sunday, and is averaging 24.3 points and 6.0 rebounds this season. With Connecticut last year, Douglas averaged 19.0 points in two games against Los Angeles.

The Fever swept the two-game season series from the Sparks in 2007.

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