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Liberty-Sparks Preview

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They were among the players on the court for the inaugural game, and now Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo can admire a pair of current stars - Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter - during another WNBA milestone.

The Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty will meet again as the league celebrates its 15th season Tuesday night at the Staples Center.

Leslie literally helped WNBA tip off as her Sparks faced the Liberty on June 21, 1997, but it was Lobo and Teresa Weatherspoon who helped lead New York to a 67-57 win at Los Angeles' Forum.

In the time since that game, Lobo said she's watch the league's players steadily grow more skilled, athletic and stronger every season.

"The players are better now,'' Lobo said. "I think that's because they watched women's basketball played at the highest level since they were young kids. It's a whole different sports world that young girls have been able to grow up with the last 15 years."

Pondexter, an All-Star guard for the Liberty was 14 when that game was played and Candace Parker, the 2008 league MVP for the Sparks, was 11. Los Angeles' Tina Thompson, the only player to appear in all 15 seasons, was with the Houston Comets.

"I felt really blessed to have grown up in a generation where it was hard to remember when there wasn't a WNBA," Parker said.

Amid the hubbub, Parker and Pondexter will try to help their teams accomplish different goals.

With Parker's help, Los Angeles (3-1) will try to win its third straight and improve to 4-0 at home. Pondexter will try to guide New York (2-3) to its first victory in four games and add to a 2-1 road record.

If the Sparks can repeat their latest effort, it might prove difficult for the Liberty to snap their skid and extend a four-game win streak in Los Angeles.

The Sparks held reigning league MVP Lauren Jackson to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting in Sunday's 74-50 rout of defending champion Seattle. The 50 points were the fewest allowed by the team since a 67-47 victory over Sacramento on June 21, 2009.

Led by Ebony Hoffman's 12 points, Los Angeles' bench posted a 40-7 scoring advantage.

"I thought this showed that we're capable of playing anyone, anybody at any time. When we play together as a team, we're going to be tough to stop," coach Jennifer Gillom said.

Gillom's club also held another former MVP, Diana Taurasi, to nine points in a 98-84 victory over Phoenix on June 10. The Sparks will next try to contain Pondexter, who had 20 points in an 85-73 loss at Chicago on Friday.

The Liberty guard scored 13 of those in the fourth quarter but couldn't help her team rally from a 14-point deficit.

While Parker nursed an injured left shoulder, Pondexter scored 19 points in last season's 80-68 win in Los Angeles and 20 in a 88-79 victory in New York.

The Liberty have won three straight and nine of 12 versus the Sparks over the past six years.

The teams will close out their season series Sunday at the Prudential Center.

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