Kathy Goodman: It's a wrap for Sparks
For the second year in a row, we lost in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. I was in the lobby of the hotel this morning chatting with Renee Brown, director of player personnel for the League. We were talking about the game last night, about how tight the Indiana/Detroit series had been and how much the level of basketball play has been elevated in the WNBA over 13 seasons. I was thinking about our chances tonight and knew we could beat Phoenix. I said to Renee, “Well, the one thing I know is that the winner of the game tonight will be the better team.”
We had a rocky start to our year, playing without Candace Parker and then unexpectedly losing Lisa Leslie for a third of the season to injury. We lost games we should have easily won and we dug ourselves a hole early on. But our team had persevered and won when it mattered, and I truly felt like we deserved to be vying for the Western Conference title. But Phoenix had had an unexpectedly good year. Early in the season no one picked them to go as far as they did, but they didn’t seem to read the predictions. They just played and won. Won enough to have the best record in the league. They definitely deserved to be vying for the Western Conference title. So as I thought about the game tonight, I knew we had enough to beat Phoenix if we wanted it enough, but I knew that the winner would be the better team.
Phoenix didn’t kill us tonight with three-pointers. We both had six. We killed them on the boards, of course — Phoenix is not known for its rebounding. But the Mercury came out strong, made shots when they counted and we just couldn’t get back to what we had done last night. Phoenix scored 21 points off our 16 turnovers and we only managed seven points off their 10 turnovers. We missed free throws we needed to make, and we let Phoenix outscore us in the paint. By the time Leslie, and then Parker, fouled out in the fourth quarter, we were already done. Our team played all the way to the end, but we had dug a hole too deep for even the 2009 Sparks to climb out of.
It is too soon to be truly reflective about the season as a whole. I am consumed with thoughts of this final game and this final series. But soon enough we will be working to get our new coach in place, start watching some college basketball to remind ourselves about the great talent coming up next summer and compiling lists of free agents and trade candidates. Only when we turn our thoughts to next season’s team, will we finally have a chance to think about this past summer. Then we might have a chance to reminisce about Parker’s great season (leading the league in double-doubles and grabbing the league rebounding title, as well as All-WNBA second team honors, after missing the first month for maternity leave) and being there to witness Leslie’s final pro basketball game.
May isn’t so far off. It will be Sparks season again before you know it!
-- Kathy Goodman