Kathy Goodman: The game is 40 minutes
The Atlanta Dream came into Staples Center on Sunday night an undefeated team. I had exchanged goodhearted trash-talk e-mails with Bill Bohlen, who runs the front office of the Dream, telling him I thought it was important that there be parity in the WNBA, so I hoped he didn’t mind if we helped cool off his team’s red-hot start.
We had played well in our home opener on Friday night, and I was hoping for more of the same Sunday evening against the Dream. It took us a minute to get started, but then Tina Thompson made back-to-back buckets, and within three minutes, we were up 10-2, and Atlanta was calling a timeout. By the end of the first quarter, we were up by five, and we had played some solid basketball against a tough team. We weren’t perfect, but Candace Parker and Tina already had scored in double digits, and we had assists on six of our eight baskets, so we were definitely playing together. I didn’t realize that that was as good as it was going to get.
When I looked at the box score at halftime, Tina was a perfect 6 of 6, and Candace already had 18 points and six boards. We had more assists than turnovers, and we were leading the Dream 45-42. I was thinking it was nice to be home. We were playing hard and together, and though our lead from the first quarter had narrowed a bit, I still felt good. I didn’t pay much attention to the deficit we had accumulated in offensive rebounds or how dominant Atlanta was in the paint.
I spent halftime in one of the suites at Staples Center talking to some fellow public-school teachers and felt pretty confident as I was heading back to my seat shortly after the second half began. As I sat down, I looked up at the scoreboard to see how much I had missed, and with just about a minute and a half gone in the period, we were down two. When did that happen? Sancho Lyttle and Iziane Castro-Marques went to work for Atlanta on the offensive end, and for the last 4 1/2 minutes of the period, they led Atlanta on a 16-5 run. Just like that, we went from up by three to down by 12 in a single quarter. It was like we had switched minds with Atlanta. Suddenly, they had all the assists, and we were playing individually. Atlanta shot almost 61% from the field, with more than half of their third-quarter points in the paint. In 10 minutes, I had become very very worried.
We never really gave ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter. We spent most of the period trading baskets with Atlanta but never cut their lead below nine. In the last three minutes of the game, the Dream went on one final 10-4 run and ran us out of the gym. They remained undefeated, beating us 101-82.
When I look at the final box score, I see that Candace Parker was four blocks shy of a triple double (33 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks), and Tina Thompson was 9 of 11 from the field, scoring 26 points. But then I also see we were out-rebounded, especially on the offensive end; we had twice as many turnovers as Atlanta (18 to their nine), and they outscored us both in the paint and on the break. We played a great first half, but the game is 40 minutes.
-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the L.A. Sparks