The crowd stood, clapping and cheering wildly for Tina Thompson.
But she was unmoved. Her team was trailing.
Becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer was little solace to Thompson as the Sparks lost, 92-83, to the San Antonio Silver Stars in front of an announced crowd of 9,793 on Sunday night at Staples Center.
“It’s only points,” Thompson said. “That scoring record isn’t going to give us wins.”
Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom agreed, calling the fuss over Thompson’s point total a “distraction.” Gillom was more concerned with the fact that the Sparks were outrebounded, 38-21, and outshot from the field, 53.2% to 47.8%.
“I’m glad that’s over with so we can get that out of our heads and start focusing on wins,” Gillom said.
Thompson needed 14 points to surpass Lisa Leslie’s record of 6,263. Her momentous moment came in the third quarter when she made a 16-foot jumper with 5:01 left to bring the Sparks to within four points of the Silver Stars, 50-46.
Thompson, however, said she was not keeping track of her points.
“I never know how many points I have during the game or after the game unless somebody tells me,” Thompson said.
The frenzied crowd kindly reminded her. So did DeLisha Milton-Jones, who went up to Thompson and said, “Wacka flacka, Tina,” their inside joke referring to the sound the ball makes as it glides through the net.
Despite everyone’s efforts, Thompson said that moment was just as uneventful as she had anticipated.
“I have the same responses I’ve had for the same I don’t know how many weeks,” Thompson said. “The most important thing to me right now is to get into the playoffs.”
Immediately after that shot, Thompson went back to work and scored a three-pointer to cut the Sparks’ deficit to 50-49 with just under five minutes remaining in the third. But the Silver Stars regained control and entered the fourth with 62-57 advantage.
The Silver Stars then got hot, going ahead by 16 points. The Sparks rallied in the final minutes and cut the Silver Stars’ lead to 89-83 with 52.8 seconds remaining, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Sparks (10-18) entered Sunday’s game in a tie with the Silver Stars (11-17) for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The loss dropped the Sparks into fifth place, a half-game behind Minnesota for fourth and a game behind third-place San Antonio. It also ended the Sparks’ two-game winning streak and put the Silver Stars ahead 3-1 in the season series.
Thompson, who finished with a game-high 23 points, fouled out with 52.8 seconds left in the game. She received another standing ovation as she solemnly walked to the team’s bench.
In the locker room after the game, though, Thompson let out a smile as reporters repeatedly reminded her of her accomplishment. But as soon as she became aware of her expression, she grimaced.
“I’m really not smiling,” Thompson said. “I’m only smiling because that’s the polite thing to do for you guys, but I’m really, really upset.