Sparks undefeated no more

LOS ANGELES-One team was going to win. One team was going to lose. When the Minnesota Lynx played the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center, something had to give between the previously two unbeaten teams in the WNBA.

Well, when you have two of the league’s  best teams going at each other, contests like this one tend to come out tightly contested and usually going down to the wire. This is exactly what happened. Players dived for loose balls. Shot attempts were blocked. Both teams tried to impose their will over one another.

The deciding outcome, however, would come down  who was going to make shots, and who was not. More specifically, this game would be altered on the final possession by both teams.

The Sparks' Candace Parker was held to nine points against the Minnesota Lynx during the two team's anticipated matchup at Staples Center. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline
The Sparks’ Candace Parker was held to nine points against the Minnesota Lynx during the two team’s anticipated matchup at Staples Center. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Minnesota made the best of their chance when Renee Montgomery dropped in a 3-point shot to give the Lynx a 72-69 lead with a couple of ticks (2.9 seconds) remaining in the game.

Not to be outdone, Kristi Toliver, the Sparks’ long-range bomber, answered Montgomery’s trey with a 3-point shot of her own at the buzzer that sent the Staples Center crowd into a frenzy. Overtime, here we come.

Whoa. Timeout. Toliver’s shot went under review. Then it was officially negated. Her shot came after time expired. That would be your ballgame.

The Lynx (13-0), which had played most of the second half without star Maya Moore, who suffered a thigh injury, would survive this one, winning their 13th game to open the 2016 WNBA season. The Sparks dropped to 11-1.

It was a hard defeat to swallow, especially considering the way the Sparks fought back all game, and thinking this game would go into the extra period after Toliver swooshed her shot through the net. It was a tough game all-around for the Sparks, a team which had been playing on a tear to start the season largely behind the play of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.

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Sparks guard Kristi Toliver doing work against the Minnesota Lynx. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

It would not be the best of days for either Parker or Ogwumike as both players finished the game with nine (9) points apiece. Ogwumike, averaging a team-high 16.9 points a game this season, only attempted three shots the entire game. Parker (15.8 points per game) connected on just three of her 13 shot attempts.

When the Big Two are not putting the ball in the basket that presents a big problem for the Sparks. Outside of Toliver scoring a team-high 20 points, Essence Carson contributing 11 points, and Alana Beard dropping in 10, scoring points became a scarce commodity for the Sparks against the Lynx.

That could have had a lot to do with the defensive pressure being mounted on them by Minnesota’s players. And when it mattered most, the Lynx put the Sparks under lock and key in the fourth quarter, holding Los Angeles to 13 points in the period. That’s ugly basketball.

That’s not how the Sparks like to play. They like to run. They thrive on getting up and down the court. For the game, the Sparks (16) doubled the amount of fastbreak points Minnesota (8) made. In the end, it didn’t matter. What matters is the final score. With that said, Minnesota continues its undefeated season.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1120 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.