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20080927/LASSAN
Sparks-Silver Stars Preview
By DAN PIERINGER, STATS Writer

There isn't much Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie hasn't accomplished over the course of her basketball career. Her play in her first season since giving birth to her first child ranks among the most impressive.

After a dominant performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, Leslie looks to help the Sparks sweep the series and advance to the WNBA finals when they visit top-seeded San Antonio on Saturday.

Leslie is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a three-time WNBA MVP and a two-time league champion. She's the league's all-time leading scorer, and became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game on July 30, 2002.

Though she's arguably the most accomplished women's basketball player of all-time, Leslie could be most proud of her performance this season in her return from maternity leave.

After sitting out last year to have her first child, Leslie ranked 17th in the league with 15.1 points, second with 8.9 rebounds and first with 2.9 blocks per game in 2008. She had 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in an 85-70 win over the Silver Stars in Game 1 on Thursday night, putting No. 3 seed Los Angeles one win away from its first finals appearance since 2003.

"I feel like I'm really beginning to peak," said the 36-year-old Leslie, who was 9-for-13 from the field. "This is a really good time for me. I feel like my stamina is much better. I'm sure some of the other players around the league are probably a little more tired than I am."

Leslie led a dominant Sparks effort in the series opener. Los Angeles shot 52.9 percent from the field, outrebounded San Antonio 37-21 and had 27 assists to the Silver Stars' 16. The Sparks held guard Becky Hammon, an MVP candidate, to nine points and 3-for-10 shooting.

"We know we have to put pressure on Becky and handle the pick-and-roll," Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "We took them out of a lot of their first and second (scoring) options, and made them go to their third and fourth.

"About six or seven times in the second half, they were shooting with 6 seconds or less on the shot clock."

The Silver Stars got 18 points from center Ann Wauters and 16 from Sophia Young, but shot just 40.3 percent. After finishing the first quarter with a nine-point lead, San Antonio was outscored 68-44 the rest of the way.

"In the second quarter, the tempo really changed," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "I didn't think we did a good job in our transition defense, and they got a lot of scoring out of that. Offensively, we didn't attack and execute well."

The Silver Stars hope to rebound as they return to AT&T Center, where they went 15-2 during the regular season, including 2-0 against the Sparks. San Antonio lost its home playoff opener against Sacramento 84-67 before clinching the first-round series with an 86-81 overtime victory at AT&T Center in Game 3.

The third game of this series, if necessary, would be Sunday in San Antonio.

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