Kathy Goodman: in the Moment
I am not sure how to describe my mood coming into Thursday night’s game against the San Antonio Silver Stars. Resigned may be the best word. I knew what our team was capable of. I knew we were far from out of the running in the Western Conference if we could get a couple of wins, especially since Minnesota had lost its game earlier in the evening. I knew our next three games — this one, Saturday afternoon and Tuesday night — were going to be crucial since they were against Western Conference teams. I also knew that we had a very long losing streak behind us. San Antonio was in second place in the West, and we had played a terrible game of basketball against them in San Antonio earlier in the season, but I knew our players were just sick of losing. So I decided to try my best to live in the moment — not celebrate an early lead or despair at early setbacks — just let the game unfold.
The game opened with a defensive rebound by the Sparks, followed by a three-point basket by Delisha Milton-Jones. I tried to stay in the moment and not see this as a sign of good things to come. By the time we got to the end of the first quarter, I was seeing some good things: San Antonio had twice as many turnovers as we did, and we had a third more assists than they did. But I also saw they had the rebounding edge and were beating us on both points in the paint and second-chance points. But we were actually winning the game — 18-12. Still, a lot of basketball left. I resisted the impulse to project a positive outcome.
The second quarter was even better. We led the Silver Stars in every major statistic: field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks. We outscored them in the paint and in second-chance points. And we just flat outscored them, leading by 15 points going into halftime, 39-24. But I had been there before. I was not going to let a big halftime lead lull me into a false sense of confidence. Our team had made an art of letting leads slip away in the blink of an eye in the third quarter. I wasn’t going to give in to optimism. I was going to let it all continue to unfold.
The third quarter started with a Sparks turnover and foul. Oh no, I thought. I have seen this too often this season. But the Silver Stars weren’t any better off, and it took a good minute and a half before anyone scored — and it was Tina Thompson on free throws. Well, I thought, I don’t care if there’s no scoring in the third, as long as we can keep this lead! But then, there it was: the Big Third Quarter Run. San Antonio reeled off 10 straight points over the next three minutes, capped off with a Becky Hammon three-point basket. San Antonio had cut our lead to seven. Marie Ferdinand-Harris came back with what looked like a last-second three to get the lead back up to 10 again, but after review, the referees waived it off and ruled it a shot clock violation, and the Silver Stars kept shooting. Over the last 4-1/2 minutes of the quarter, they went on a 14-7 run, erasing our entire first-half lead and even taking the lead for a bit. When we got to the end of the third with a 48-48 tie, though, I refused to give into defeatism. I had withheld a prediction of a win based on our first-half lead, so I wouldn’t predict a loss based on our third-quarter slide.
Ten more minutes of basketball. By now, Phoenix had finished its game and had lost. With Minnesota and Phoenix both losing, I knew that if we did lose this game, it wouldn’t be devastating, but a win would give us a big boost in the standings.
The fourth quarter opened with a Sparks turnover and the first fast-break points of the game, courtesy of Hammon. I was trying really hard to just stay in the moment and not think of the outcome. The score stayed close for the next 5 minutes — we led by as much as four, but then San Antonio regained the lead. I knew the game was going to break open one way or another. With just under 5 minutes left in the game, it did. The Sparks went on a 12-0 run and with 1:46 left in the game and we led by 11. The end of the game was in sight. I let myself go and started celebrating with the rest of the arena. With under a minute left and the Sparks up by nine, San Antonio started fouling, and our fans started dancing. We had waited patiently for this final moment. Sparks win, 73-63.
A moment worth waiting for.
-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the L.A. Sparks