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Kathy Goodman: The hard way

September 24, 2009 |  6:21 am

Tina

You’ve got to hand it to Phoenix. They make even the loser’s stat sheet look good. I mean, we out-rebounded them 40-26. Candace Parker and Tina Thompson set career highs in playoff points and field goals made. We had four of our five starters in double-digit scoring. We scored a huge 94 points. If only the Phoenix Mercury hadn’t scored 103, we would have left the arena feeling pretty good.

The Sparks haven’t done anything the easy way all summer long. Candace had to fight her way back after maternity leave but then led the league in rebounds and double doubles. Lisa had to fight her way back from a knee injury and is leading the team in scoring in her 13th season in the league. We fought our way back from the bottom of the league, with a record of 8-13, to go on a 10-3 run at the end of the season to clinch our playoff spot. We lost a heartbreaker in the last 10 seconds of Game 2 in the first round in Seattle to come back to secure a spot in the Conference Finals.

So we face off against Phoenix in a three-game series. Of the 11 games Phoenix lost in the regular season, five of them were at home. Although we only beat the Mercury once during the 2009 regular season, we beat them in Phoenix. All-time against the Mercury, we are 14-10 when we play in Phoenix. So, we can win in Phoenix. And apparently tonight our players decided that was the way they wanted it to happen./p>

We started the game slow and let the Mercury end the first quarter with a seven-point lead. We picked up the pace from there, playing them close for the next two quarters, but we could never get past that first-quarter deficit. We missed free throws when we needed them; we missed layups when we needed them; we missed defensive assignments on the perimeter when we needed them. We had chances to get ahead, but we didn’t capitalize on them.

All of the Mercury’s players stepped up. Like us, four of the five starters were in double-digit scoring. Diana Taurasi shot 9 of 17, making four from outside the arc, to score 28. Cappie Pondexter shot 6 of 9. Penny Taylor, coming off the bench, shot 6 of 12, including 4 of 6 from long-range. Their bench outscored ours 29-4.

So, now we have to do things the hard way. To send Lisa and Michael Cooper out with rings this season, we need to win two in Phoenix. We can do it. Now I just have to get on a plane to Phoenix on Friday to find out if we will. Nothing has come easy to the Sparks this season, so I am not counting us out yet. If any team can win two on the road, it’s the Sparks. They have not made a single thing easy this season.

-- Kathy Goodman

Goodman is co-owner of the Sparks.

Photo: Sparks forward Tina Thompson drives around Phoenix's Nicole Ohlde during Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals on Wednesday. Credit: Jason Redmond / Associated Press

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