Kathy Goodman: Every game counts
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Coming into Friday’s game against the Tulsa Shock, we had been battling for a playoff spot. We had been in fourth, then our loss to the New York Liberty, coupled with Minnesota’s win over Seattle, dropped us back to fifth. With so few games left in the regular season, and such a rough start to the season, we need every win to get us where we want to be: playing in the postseason. Our game against Tulsa was a microcosm of our season, as we started slow but slowly fought back until we pulled out the 77-70 victory.
We need every win, and Tulsa is a team it is easy to look past, since they have had their own struggles, but they have too many weapons to just take a win against them for granted. They beat Seattle last week and can easily disrupt an offense and get on a run that may make them hard to catch. When our game started, I thought we might have more of a problem than we anticipated. Although Tina Thompson scored the first two points in the game off of free throws, Tulsa went on a 12-0 run over the next 4-1/2 minutes as we turned the ball over six consecutive times and didn’t score from the field until six minutes into the period. Once we settled down a little, we went on our own run, scoring 11 points in the last four minutes, and ended the quarter only down by three.
The second quarter wasn’t much better. We kept Tulsa in our sights but couldn’t really put a dent in their lead. Tulsa started another run, outscoring the Sparks 8-0 in the first two minutes, pushing their lead to 11. By the time halftime rolled around, we were down by eight, but I still felt confident as I watched the team run off the floor. We had faced adversity, we had been down, and as the season rolled on, we learned how to face it and play through it. We had won four of our last six games, and we needed this one.
In the second half, a relaxed and confident Sparks team took the floor. We were the team that opened the quarter with a run this time, scoring nine quick points off three steals. DeLisha Milton-Jones and Marie Ferdinand-Harris went to work in the third quarter, scoring a combined 17 points, and Ticha Penecheiro dished out five assists, one more than she had in the entire first half. We flirted with the lead in the last minute or so, but ended the third quarter down by one.
Ten more minutes of basketball and we needed this win. We needed every win we could get. As well as the Sparks played in the third quarter (shooting over 53%, assists on seven of our eight baskets, out-rebounding the Shock), they turned it up for the fourth quarter. The lead seesawed back and forth seven times in the first four minutes and then the Sparks just dug in and refused to relinquish the lead for the last six minutes of the game.
Milton-Jones picked up where she left off in the third, scoring 12 points, and the Sparks shot over 73% from the field. Early foul trouble came back to haunt Tulsa, with Nicole Ohlde and Scholanda Robinson fouling out in the last two minutes, and the Sparks were perfect from the free-throw line.
By the time the game was over, Penecheiro again had 13 assists, Milton-Jones scored a total of 23 points, shooting over 60% for the game, and Ferdinand-Harris ended with 18 points on 70% shooting. Looking at the standings, the Sparks are now in a three-way tie with Minnesota and San Antonio for third place in the West. On Sunday at 5 p.m. we play San Antonio at Staples Center to settle that part of the tie. And Thompson is only 14 points away from setting the all-time WNBA individual scoring record.
Every game counts, and every win counts. Our win on Friday moved us one step closer to the postseason. It will be an exciting race to the end.
-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the Sparks