Defending Champion Douse Sparks Title Hopes
By Robert Attical and Gary Montgomery
Staples Center - Sparks General Manager, Penny Toller won’t agree right now but by all measures her 2012 squad had a successful campaign. Tempered by the immediate pain of playoff elimination she would likely disagree with this assertion.
After finishing in near the bottom last season and sitting out the 2012 playoff, Toller did what she has became known for─ going out and finding more building blocks for her team.
Toller struck gold, hiring first time head coach Carol Ross from the Atlanta Dream. Upon arrival, Ross immediately installed a new defensive attitude to a team that was 15-19 and gave up over 80 points per game to opponents a year ago.
At the center of it all she drafted Stanford senior sensation Nneka Oguwmike to anchor the defense and take some of the work load away from Candace which showed up big time in her season numbers.
Parker averaged just over 17-points per game and finished second in MVP balloting behind Connecticut’s Tina Charles.
Still hurting from their 80-79 loss to the Lynx, a visibly upset Parker left the court with her jersey pulled over her face. LA lost the first game of the series in Minnesota by 16 points but seemed to have control of this one deep into the fourth quarter until a barrage of 3 pointers from Maya Moore brought the Lynx storming back.
When the pain resides, the Sparks will realize that the series was lost two days earlier when a veteran Seattle Storm team came within one shot of upsetting the defending champions -- the one break LA needed.
If Seattle could have pulled off the upset, LA would have owned home court advantage for the Western Conference Finals something the Sparks could have desperately used.
Although Candace is in her 5th season as a professional and DeLisha Milton-Jones is 38 years old the Sparks are a relatively inexperienced team but with championship talent. The Sparks owned Seattle this season, beating the Storm all five times the teams met this season and could have easily made it seven.
Parker played all 40 minutes ─ scored 33 points and pulled down 15 rebounds giving just about as much as any player could be expected to give. But in the final minutes LA needed Candace on more time but couldn’t get her the ball for the final shot.
With 1:31 remaining Parker hit a two-point basket to put LA ahead 79-77 ignited the crowd and seemingly sealed the win. But the Lynx’s Monica Wright came right back with a 3-point basket after LA missed a defensive assignment. The two teams then exchanged empty possessions until Khristi Toliver grabbed a defensive rebound with 0.6 seconds left and quickly called time out.
The Sparks setup a play for Candace but botched the execution leaving Alana Beard to take a desperation jumper that feel short and ended LA’s season.
The Lynx will move on to the WNBA Finals in pursuit of their second straight title against either Indiana or Connecticut.
G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com