Originally created 09/01/01

Sparks need one victory for WNBA title



LOS ANGELES -- As good as the Los Angeles Sparks have been at home all season, the Charlotte Sting are just as good on the road.

The Sting had to win playoff series in Cleveland and New York to reach the WNBA Finals, where they trail the Sparks 1-0 after losing 75-66 Thursday.

So coming into Staples Center - where the Sparks are 18-1 this season - isn't as intimidating to the Sting as it has been for other teams.

"We have to go in composed, ready to play and ready to do battle," Charlotte's Dawn Staley said. "I think we can pull one out and take it to a third game."

The Sparks could make Los Angeles a two-title town and earn their first WNBA championship with a victory in Game 2 Saturday. They would join the Lakers, another Staples tenant, as pro basketball champions this season. If necessary, a third game would be Sunday at Staples.

"We recognize that they would probably be considered the best road team right now and we are considered the best home team, so something has got to give," Sparks center Lisa Leslie said.

In the Eastern Conference finals, the Sting lost the first game to New York, then swept two in Madison Square Garden, which attracts some of the largest and loudest crowds in the league.

"Madison Square Garden is probably the hardest place to play," Staley said. "Hopefully, we will take advantage of the newness of Staples Center. First get Game 2 and then put the pressure back on. We fare well in situations like we are in now."

The Sparks had a light day Friday after returning to Los Angeles in the morning. They watched video and planned to walk through some plays. The Sting practiced at Staples, where the Sparks moved this season after playing their first four years at the Forum in Inglewood.

Sparks guard Tamecka Dixon, who has endured a right heel injury all season, was on crutches and in a wheelchair Friday. She landed hard on the same foot while attempting a layup Thursday and didn't finish the game.

"Our trainer doesn't want her to put any pressure on it," said Sparks spokeswoman Kristal Shipp, who added that Dixon's status would be a game-time decision.

X-rays after the game were negative, and Dixon insists she will be available Saturday.

"I'm not going to miss it for the world, even if I have to play 10 seconds," she said. "I just want to walk out there."

If Dixon doesn't, the Sparks expect to have several replacements.

"That's what this team's about," guard Ukari Figgs said. "If somebody is not having a good game or somebody is hurt, we always step up. Expect somebody or all of us to step up on Saturday."

The Sparks swept the Sting in two regular-season games, including a 73-69 victory at Staples on June 19 that was part of the Sparks' 9-0 start.

After that game, one of the Sting players shouted "To be continued." Charlotte remembered that expression while it dug out of a 1-10 start on its way to a fourth-place finish and upsets of top-seeded Cleveland and No. 2 New York in the playoffs.

"We said it after games, whether we won or lost," said guard Allison Feaster, who was traded to Charlotte from Los Angeles in the offseason. "So many people had written us off, but we felt the final story hadn't been written."