Box Score | Game Thread
A powerful fourth-quarter surge propelled the Los Angeles Sparks past the Minnesota Lynx 98-91 Friday night and into a Western Conference playoff spot in front of a crowd of 13,154 at the Staples Center.
Tina Thompson led the way for the Sparks with 26 points, while DeLisha Milton-Jones added 24. For the Lynx, Charde Houston had 21 points.
Los Angeles needed the win to secure a playoff spot They were tied with Minnesota and San Antonio for third in the West going into the game. Their playoff finish seemed especially improbable given the beginning of the season, which saw the loss of star forward Candace Parker to injury, and multiple losses that kept them at the bottom of the conference for weeks.
“I’m just ecstatic right now,” said head coach Jennifer Gillom. “It was a team win tonight. We knew that if we were going to make the playoffs, it had to be a team win.”
The Sparks trailed slightly throughout the game, however, as the Lynx seemed to drive to the hole and score at will. Minnesota’s defense caused Los Angeles to settle for long-range shots, which they kept missing. At halftime, only four Sparks were on the scoreboard: Thompson, Milton-Jones, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Noelle Quinn. Meanwhile, the Lynx had seven players in the scoring column.
Los Angeles ignited in the final period, fueled by tough buckets by Thompson, Milton-Jones and Kristi Toliver, who came off the bench and ended up with 14 points on the night. At the 6:03 mark, the Sparks took the lead by one, 75-74, and kept it.
Milton-Jones, who put up 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter, paced the Sparks. But it was Quinn’s back-to-back three’s with under four minutes to go that gave Los Angeles a 10-point lead, from which Minnesota could never recover.
“I told everybody to wake……up and let’s go,” Milton-Jones said of her words to her teammates before the fourth quarter started.
“Sometimes you can get caught up in the rhythm of the game and you don’t elevate. Both teams were getting complacent at that point, but I told [the Sparks] that if you can take the momentum, you can take the game.”
Lynx point guard Lindsey Whalen, who had 16 on the night, acknowledged her team’s loss of momentum.