Sparks beat Tulsa, 77-70, and continue push for playoff berth

For a while, it looked as though the Sparks weren’t going to best the league’s worst.

Then came the second half.

The Sparks (10-17) came back from a 34-26 halftime deficit to beat the Tulsa Shock (5-23), 77-70, at Staples Center in front of an announced crowd of 8,962.

“I knew we were going to be OK,” said forward Delisha Milton-Jones, who had a game-high 23 points. “It was just a matter of time before we collected ourselves.”

After scoring the game’s first two points, the Sparks trailed the Shock until late in the third quarter, when Marie Ferdinand-Harris converted two free throws with 1:33 remaining to give the Sparks a 45-44 lead.

The fourth quarter saw seven lead changes, but the Sparks scored 30 points in the quarter — they had 26 in the first half — for the win.

“We played with a sense of urgency in the second half,” Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom said.

The first half, however, had a very different tone.

The Sparks shot 30.8% and committed 12 turnovers in front of a quiet crowd that was heard only during a towel giveaway.

In the locker room at halftime, Ferdinand-Harris said something that clicked for the team: “It’s playoff time.”

“We’re trying to get not that fourth spot, but the third spot,” said Ferdinand-Harris, who had 18 points.

With the victory, the Sparks moved from fifth place in the Western Conference into a three-way tie for third with the Minnesota Lynx and the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The Sparks, who have seven games left in the regular season, face the Silver Stars at Staples Center on Sunday, when a celebration could occur regardless of the outcome of the game.

Tina Thompson finished the game with 12 points and is 14 shy of breaking Lisa Leslie’s all-time scoring WNBA record of 6,263.