Jantel Lavender shuffled her feet under the basket as Candace Parker heaved a 15-foot jumper fewer than five minutes into Friday’s game. The shot missed, but Lavender grabbed the rebound.
Then she missed a put-back attempt and grabbed the rebound again. Once more she missed, and once more she grabbed the rebound.
Finally, the ball found the net, and the Sparks retreated on defense.
But in Friday night’s 78-76 loss to the Indiana Fever at Staples Center, the Sparks didn’t get many second (or third or fourth) chances like Lavender’s.
Instead, the last-place Fever (3-21) used a blistering third quarter to toss the Sparks (14-10) into a chasm from which they couldn’t emerge.
The Fever outscored the Sparks 29-14 in the third quarter to claim a 12-point lead punctuated by a 34-foot, buzzer-beating three-pointer from Kelsey Mitchell to close the quarter.
“We couldn’t get stops, and they were kind of playing with flow and scoring in transition,” Parker said. “I think that was the key.”
The Sparks fought back, clawing as close as two points with 15.8 seconds left to play. After a defensive stop led by Chelsea Gray gave the Sparks the ball with five seconds left, Essence Carson missed a 19-foot jumper and Parker missed a layup at the buzzer that would have tied the score.
The loss was the Sparks’ seventh in their last 10 games and their fourth straight at home.