Kathy Goodman: I can't complain
The Sparks came in to play the New York Liberty at the end of a four-game, 10-day trip that had us zigzagging across time zones four times. Although the trip started rough in Indiana, we rallied from there, winning in Connecticut and Minnesota, moving us into fourth place in the Western Conference standings (and a playoff berth). We all were looking for a final win in New York to cap our trip, but it wasn’t to be. We fell to the Liberty on Friday night, 88-79, but I can’t complain.
We knew this would be a tough game. We were playing in Madison Square Garden and the Liberty was fighting for its own playoff spot in the East. The New York rivalry with L.A. is longstanding on many fronts, not the least of which is in the WNBA, and our games against the Liberty are always hard-fought. This one was no exception. The game was tied 14 times, the lead changed 19 times and until the last two minutes of the game, no more than five points separated the two teams.
The start of the game didn’t necessarily signal what was to come. In the first quarter, both teams shot under 40% and the Sparks went 0 for 3 from the three-point line. By the end of the quarter, the Liberty was only up by two. The second quarter couldn’t have been more different. Both teams went on a scoring tear, with the Sparks shooting almost 65% from the field (and 50% from three-point range) and the Liberty shooting just over 61%. At one point, the Liberty pushed its lead to five, but the Sparks kept fighting back, with Tina Thompson and Marie Ferdinand-Harris scoring from everywhere when we needed them to. The quarter ended up a draw — 28 points for each team — and the Liberty carried its two-point lead from the first quarter into halftime.
We needed to make a big push in the second half — see if we could break the game open. We had held New York’s Cappie Pondexter to single-digit scoring in the first half, and Janel McCarville had scored only three points. If we came out strong in the second half, we might be able to steal this game in Madison Square Garden.
The Sparks started the second half with two quick baskets to take the lead, and then it was trading baskets from there. The hot shooting from the second quarter continued for both teams, and neither L.A. nor N.Y. could get a run going. Instead, the lead changed hands six times with three ties and by the end of the quarter, our free-throw shooting (four for four in the quarter) allowed us to take the lead. Ten minutes left of our longest trip of the summer and we were up by one.
The fourth quarter started a little more slowly for us. It took us until a little more than two minutes had elapsed in the quarter to finally get a basket — a nice three-pointer from Marie that brought New York’s lead back down to one. From then on, like the third quarter (and the rest of the game, really), neither team made much progress — trading baskets and trading the lead. Finally, in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game, it looked like the long trip and having only nine active players on our roster and our hard-fought wins and all those time zones were catching up to us. Noelle Quinn missed a jumper and Leilani Mitchell grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast for a layup, pushing the New York’s lead to five, the largest it had been in the game. Then we made a bad pass, allowing Mitchell another steal and Marie Ferdinand-Harris fouled her in what was called a clear path foul. Mitchell made both her free throws, pushing the lead to seven, and then on the ensuing N.Y. possession, Pondexter found Nicole Powell alone outside the arc and she buried the three. The Sparks fought back, but 10 points was too much to make up in the last minute and a half in the game and New York took the game.
Four of our five starters scored in double digits and Ticha, who scored six, had seven assists in the game. We were perfect from the free-throw line (16 for 16). We shot just over 48% for the game. We were within one rebound of New York on both the offensive and defensive glass. We are holding a playoff spot now and headed home, where we play six of our last nine games. I know we didn’t win, but I can’t complain. It’s going to be an exciting run to the end.
-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the L.A. Sparks