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Kathy Goodman: party time

May 29, 2010 |  9:36 am

We came into Staples Center Friday night to face the Washington Mystics with a little chip on our shoulder.  Well, maybe a cloud hanging over us. We were the last team in the league without a win and that was a streak we wanted to break. Friday night we played like the team Penny Toler laid out for us in the off-season.

A team that could shoot inside and out, that could run the floor effectively and could play tough defense.  We shot just shy of 50% from the floor and 44% from three-point range.  We took care of the ball (only 10 turnovers) and shared the ball well (19 assists).  After 40 minutes, our team effort paid off, giving us a win over a tough Mystics team, 81-75.

The home opener is a little different when you’re a team owner and not just a fan. It is still incredibly exciting. The arena usually holds a big crowd filled with anticipation — Friday was our fourth consecutive home opener sellout.

As a fan, I was always excited to welcome back familiar elements of a Sparks home game — the Sparkids, the in-arena announcer, the players I was excited to see from last season returning.  And there’s the excitement of the new — new players, new coach this season.  But as an owner, I also know this is the night to showcase my team.  Carla and I feel like each home game is a party we have invited a whole arena full of people to and we really need to show them a good time.  If we don’t win, well, how fun is that party?

So when we got off to a fast start in the first quarter, I could relax just a little. Delisha Milton-Jones picked up where she left off in the San Antonio game, scoring and rebounding, and Candace Parker definitely had her legs under her Friday night.  When we ended the first quarter up by four with only one turnover and five assists, holding Lindsay Harding and Katie Smith scoreless, I tried not to be too excited.  The party was just getting started.

When we shot 64% from the field in the second quarter and Tina Thompson was two of three from outside the arc, extending our lead at halftime to 14, I was feeling like the party was going pretty well.  We didn’t let up much in the third quarter.  The Mystics did cut the lead to single digits with 4.6 seconds in the quarter, but Kristi Toliver was having none of it, tossing up a buzzer-beating 3 to end the quarter, keeping the lead at 10.

Fourth quarter. Last 10 minutes.  This is the home stretch. We’ve been leading all game and we can’t look back now. The party is in full swing and everyone in the arena is having a great time.  We know we have this one. The team looks relaxed and strong, working and playing together.  And then about three minutes into the last quarter, the lead starts to slip: ahead by eight, ahead by six, and then everyone’s looking around asking, “How did they make it a four-point game?!”

I could not sit through another loss.  We had this game and we just had to take it home.  The crowd was loud and on its feet. With three minutes left, the Sparks kept finding Parker.  She scored the last eight points for us, and then all of a sudden “I Love LA” came blaring out of the speakers and streamers fell from the rafters as the horn sounded to end the game. That was a great party!  Can’t wait to throw that same party again Sunday at 5 p.m.

-- Kathy Goodman, L.A. Sparks co-owner

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