Kathy Goodman: Is two wins a streak?
I wasn’t planning on going to the Sparks game against the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday night. It is getting close to the time that I have to go back to my real job, teaching high school, and I thought I would skip the Minnesota game and just go to the game in New York on Friday to see East Coast family. But after our win against the Connecticut Sun last Saturday night, I just didn’t want to miss the beginning of what I thought might be a win streak. When I expressed this change of plans to one of my friends, she asked me, “Is two wins a streak?” I told her I would decide when we had two wins.
I felt our team played with a different attitude in Connecticut. Something intangible, but with a confidence and teamwork they had been working toward all season. I wanted to see firsthand if they could keep it going in Minnesota. When the game started, I did have a moment of pause. We opened the game with three missed shots in a row, followed by a 4 1/2 minute scoring drought. When the Lynx had run up an 11-2 lead in the first five minutes, I sat back and thought, ”This might be a longer game than I had hoped.” By the end of the first quarter, we had shot a woeful 25% and had scored only 10 points. The one saving grace was that the Lynx had had almost as much trouble scoring, and we were only down by six.
The second quarter was a different story altogether. We started with a younger lineup, Marie Ferdinand-Harris the only vet of the group, and they showed defensive tenacity. A minute and a half into the quarter, our starters got back in and showed some scoring punch. We went on a 14-2 run to finally take the lead in the game and then didn’t look back. The Lynx’s shooting woes continued, scoring only two field goals in the quarter and a total of 10 points on 10% shooting. The Sparks shot over 63%, with Noelle Quinn adding 11 of her total 17 points in the second quarter, and all of our second quarter baskets were scored off assists. By the time the horn sounded for halftime, the Sparks were up by 3 and I felt like we could win this game too.
But, of course, there was the third quarter looming ahead. I had all of halftime to wonder if I was going to get the first quarter Sparks or the second quarter Sparks back for the second half of the game. The third quarter turned out to be just a battle. In the early going, we pushed our lead to five, but the Lynx would not let us run away with it, forcing a tie several times. Our shooting as a team dropped back into normal range, but now Marie Ferdinand-Harris took over scoring duties, connecting on five of six shots, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the third quarter, including beautiful back-to-back baskets late in the period to push the Sparks lead up to seven. With only the last 10 minutes left to play, we now had a five-point lead and three players in double-digit scoring. We were getting killed on the offensive boards (13-3), but were out-shooting Minnesota.
Ten minutes left to determine if we were going to be able to put ourselves in playoff contention. A win against Minnesota in this game moved us up into fourth place, and I noticed that San Antonio had lost its game against New York, which meant we would be just half a game out of third. I really wanted us to finish this game off strong — we had to play to win, rather than not to lose.
I shouldn’t have worried. Within the first 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Sparks had pushed the lead to 12, off two Tina Thompson three-pointers, and it was all but over. The Lynx fought back, but could never get closer than seven. With less than a minute left in the game, Tina hit her fourth and final three-point shot of the game (her third in the fourth quarter) to push the lead to an unreachable 13 points. Ticha Penecheiro, sporting a serious-looking black eye from the Connecticut game, led the team again with nine assists; Tina led in scoring with 24 points, and Noelle Quinn seemed to have returned to her form from earlier in the season, with 17 points, six assists and eight rebounds.
I decided that winning two games is a win streak. Let’s see if we can keep it going in New York on Friday.
--Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the Sparks