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Pro basketball briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


Houston holds off New York

NEW YORK -- Cynthia Cooper scored 20 points as Houston held off New York 59-52 in Game 1 of the WNBA final Thursday night.

Tina Thompson added 15 points and Sheryl Swoopes had 12 for Houston, which stopped the Liberty's 13-game home-court winning streak and sent the best-of-three series to the Compaq Center, where the Comets have lost just twice this season.

Game 2 is Saturday at Houston, with Game 3, if necessary, there Sunday.

New York's Tari Phillips had 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds in a game deemed by many Liberty players as a must-win.

After a sloppy first half in which both teams struggled to score, Houston and New York turned it on in the second half.

The Comets opened a 52-42 lead on Swoopes' free throw with 7:40 remaining, but the Liberty went on a 6-0 run.

Phillips made a layup at 7:21 to make it 52-44. Tamika Whitmore made two free throws at 4:36, and Phillips put back Vickie Johnson's miss to make it 52-48 with 4:03 left.

The teams went scoreless until 52.3 seconds remained, when Teresa Weatherspoon's sank two free throws after getting fouled by Swoopes to make it 52-50.

Then, one of the league's great players sealed the victory for Houston. Cooper, the two-time MVP who is retiring after the playoffs, made a layup and was fouled by Sue Wicks. She made the shot to give the Comets a 55-50 lead with 26.4 seconds remaining. Cooper finished 7-of-23 from the field.

Phillips' layup with 20 seconds left made it 55-52, but Cooper made two more free throws to make it 57-52 with 14.1 seconds left. Janeth Arcain added a layup with 2.1 seconds left to seal it for the three-time champions.

The Comets, who never led by more than seven points in the first half, shot just 30.6 percent (11-for-26) from the field. But the Liberty could have been closer had it not shot 26.9 percent (7-for-26).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Swoopes and Phillips will lead a two-team, 21-player tour of four U.S. cities this fall.

The WNBA on Tour 2000 will feature players from each of the league's 16 teams, and will stop Oct. 22 in Des Moines, Iowa; Oct. 25 in St. Louis; Oct. 28 in Little Rock, Ark.; and Nov. 1 in New Orleans.

The East team, coached by Orlando's Carolyn Peck, will include: Phillips; Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw and Nikki McCray; Orlando's Shannon Johnson and Nykesha Sales; Cleveland's Merlakia Jones; Detroit's Wendy Palmer; Miami's Sheri Sam; Charlotte's Andrea Stinson; and Indiana's Kara Wolters.

The West team, coached by Minnesota's Brian Angler, will include: Swoopes; Utah's Jennifer Azzi and Natalie Williams; Sacramento's Ruthie Bolton-Holifield and Yolanda Griffith; Phoenix's Jennifer Gillom; Seattle's Sonja Henning; Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie and Delisha Milton; Minnesota's Katie Smith; and Portland's Sophia Witherspoon.

NBA

CLIPPERS: John Hammond, Dennis Johnson and Rex Kalamian were hired as assistant coaches for new coach Alvin Gentry's staff.

All three are experienced assistant coaches who have worked for the Clippers in the past.

Former assistant coach and NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will not return to the coaching staff this year, team officials said.

MAVERICKS: Dallas hopes to complete a trade for Christian Laettner by Monday, owner Mark Cuban said.

The deal would send Cedric Ceballos, John Wallace and Eric Murdock to Detroit for Laettner, a former All-American at Duke. Monday is the earliest the trade can be made.

The Mavericks acquired Wallace and Murdock on June 28, the day of the NBA draft, from New York and the Los Angeles Clippers, respectively. NBA rules state that after a player is traded, a team must wait 60 days to trade him again, and the waiting period for the Mavs ends Monday.

Picking up Laettner, who is going into the last year of his contract, gives the Mavs depth at center and power forward. The eight-year veteran has played for three teams -- Minnesota, Atlanta and Detroit -- and has averaged 15.7 points and 7.6 rebounds over his career. He scored 12.2 points with 6.7 rebounds in 82 starts for Detroit last season.

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