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Game 1 in N.Y. belongs to L.A.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002

NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Sparks are one win from their second straight WNBA championship.

Mwadi Mabika scored 20 and DeLisha Milton added 17 as the Sparks withstood a late comeback to hold off the Liberty 71-63 Thursday night in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.

Game 2 in the best-of-three series is Saturday in Los Angeles. The Liberty is 0-3 in WNBA Finals, losing all three times to the Houston Comets.

The Sparks are 5-0 in the postseason and have two chances at home to win the title, but the Liberty is familiar with facing elimination.

It won the decisive third game in two previous series, but Thursday was its first home playoff loss this season.

Reserve Becky Hammon led New York with 18 points, and Crystal Robinson scored 13.

The teams split in the regular season, and Game 1 was just as close. Los Angeles withstood several Liberty rallies in the second half, including one with less than two minutes to play.

Vicki Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to bring the Liberty to 64-61, but Milton scored on the next Sparks possession to seal it.

The Los Angeles trio of Mabika, Milton and Lisa Leslie was too much for the Liberty. The three combined to score 52, and they came up with big plays when the Sparks needed them.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: The United States built a big lead early with layups instead of dunks and brought out its highlight material later in the game, posting a 110-60 victory over Algeria in opening-round play in Indianapolis.

With Paul Pierce and Elton Brand providing an inordinate amount of early scoring, the Americans scored the first 13 and led 32-13 after one quarter.

They didn't do anything particularly fancy until late in the third quarter, when Jermaine O'Neal's dunk seemed to inspire his teammates. Shawn Marion followed with a jam off a behind-the-back pass from Pierce, and Ben Wallace threw down the evening's hardest dunk off a bounce pass from Baron Davis early in the fourth.

Pierce finished with 22 points, 16 in the first quarter, and Michael Finley and Elton Brand added 17 each.

Although Algeria trailed by only 19 at halftime, the runners-up from the African Championships were hopelessly outmatched. The Algerians relied almost exclusively on the 3-point shot, often taking their attempts from well behind the 21-foot arc.

The U.S. team gets a tougher test tonight against Germany, which defeated China 88-76 behind 30 points from NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.

The Americans were without Reggie Miller, sidelined by a sore ankle. But Pierce more than made up for Miller's absence, single-handedly outscoring the Algerian team in the first quarter.

Algeria didn't score its first point until 5:52 remained in the first quarter after missing its first five attempts.

In other games Thursday, it was Yugoslavia 113, Angola 63; Spain 85, Canada 54; Brazil 102, Lebanon 73; Puerto Rico 78, Turkey 75; New Zealand 90, Russia 81; and Argentina 107, Venezuela 72.

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