LONG BEACH-Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Los Angeles Sparks were desperate when they played Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx Sunday afternoon at the Walter Pyramid building at Long Beach State University. Down 0-1 going into Game 2 of a three-game series, the Sparks knew what to do and played like they knew what was at stake.
Win and you advance to see another game. Lose and go home. It’s simple mathematics in the playoffs. Win more games than your opponent you get to move on. The Sparks decided they weren’t ready to go home, yet. Reserve guard Ana Dabovic played like she was not in the mood to see her team end the season this early.
Dabovic played desperate, scoring 19 points off the bench to help push the Sparks to a much-needed 81-71 win. If Dabovic does not go buck wild against the Lynx, it is almost safe to say that the Sparks might have had their season come to an abrupt halt on Sunday.
“First, I love playing, I enjoy playing,” Dabovic said after the win. “Anytime I go into the game, I have fun because I play with great players, especially with Candace (Parker) I enjoy…It’s easy when you have great teammates and they can score, catch the ball and (do) everything. My only thinking is to make them better if I can…just get them the ball and they will do everything. What they give me, take it.”
Going 3-4 on three-point shooting from three-point range, Dabovic’s took it and ran with it. Her scoring output was second on the team to Candace Parker’s 25 points. Parker is expected to put up those numbers.
Dabovic’s timely scoring was not expected. Dabovic really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Neither did the Sparks. The team needed someone else other than Parker to light a fire in the scoring column. With coach Brian Agler tightening the belt on his bench play to just two players, and with forward Nneka Ogwumike’s time limited because of a neck injury, Dabovic made good in her 24 minutes of action.
With Jantel Lavender and and Alana Beard (11 points apiece) being the only other players to score in double-digits for the Sparks, Los Angeles urgently needed somebody else to step up to the plate. Dabovic obliged with her long-distance shooting and aggressive play to the basket.
The Sparks are going to need that same kind of aggression with Game 3 on the road. Dabovic scored just 7 points in Game 1, which is in stark contrast to the 19 points she delivered in Game 2. Dabovic is listed officially as a rookie with the team, but in reality, she is a seasoned pro. The Serbia native has played ball for teams in Russia, Greece, Turkey, Poland and Albania among her professional stints.
She knows what she’s doing on the court. To the Lynx’s surprise, Dabovic’s experience came into full fruition as the Sparks jumped out to an 18-point lead at the intermission mark, then had to push back a furious Minnesota rally that was sparked by Moore. Dabovic was the key in keeping Minnesota at bay. Two of her made three-point shots was the difference.
With Minnesota creeping up to seven points of the Sparks early in the fourth quarter, Dabovic dropped in a 23-foot rainbow to push the lead to 10 points. Minnesota would not be deterred, coming to within six points with just a little over four minutes to play in the game. Desperately needing a bucket, the Sparks and their faithful fans, watched as Dabovic delivered once again.
This time, Dabovic made a 25-foot bomb with 4: 07 to go to give the Sparks a nine-point cushion that they eventually rode to the win. The Sparks are hopeful Dabovic’s energy will carry over to Game 3.
“Ana is a gamer,” Agler said in a postgame press conference.The best thing I can say about Ana is that she is fearless, and she has a tremendous demeanor. If she makes a mistake or misses a shot, she doesn’t get down. She just keeps playing and she brings that energy to the floor. She’s enthusiastic and she’s one of the best players in the world.
“People don’t recognize her because she’s not from here. [But] Serbia qualified for the very first time ever. They won the Euro basket. She was MVP of the tournament. She’s recognized as one of the better players. She’s played against the USA national team, and has played real well. So, she has a history within the women’s basketball circle of being a great competitor and a great player. For us, she brings somebody that we can put the ball in her hands to make plays.”