Tina Thompson leads Sparks past Lynx

Lynx Postgame Audio
Jennifer Gillom

Rashanda McCants

Tasha Humphrey

Minnesota passed the halfway point of the season as a young team fighting adversity, youth and its doubters.

The Lynx will not have any of those excuses in the second half if they are to achieve their goal and earn a playoff berth.

Los Angeles came into Tuesday’s game at the Target Center with only four wins – a disappointing start for a very talented team. The Sparks picked up an important game, upending a scrappy Lynx squad behind the stellar play of Tina Thompson.

Thompson hit a wide open three to give Los Angeles a six-point lead with 1:40 to play. Her fade away over Tasha Humphrey with 23 seconds left re-established a six-point lead and sealed a 76-70 win for the Sparks.

Thompson scored 15 of her 30 points in the final quarter.

“Tina Thompson came in for L.A. and did her job,” Rashanda McCants said. “It was really hard to actually stop her. She just put a dagger in our backs. Every time we tried to make a run, she just hit a big shot.”

Minnesota (10-7) had its chances to cut into the lead late, but missed on some opportunities down the stretch.

Nicky Anosike missed a layup after a Roneeka Hodges steal with 1:07 to play that would have cut the lead to two. The miss led to a fast break that ended with a DeLisha Milton-Jones layup. Minnesota was playing catch-up the final minute and could not close the gap in the end.

The teams exchanged baskets for much of the fourth after Minnesota took its first lead since the first quarter on a Kelly Miller mid-range jumper with about 8:40 to play.

The game was hardly a thing of beauty with both teams shooting below 40 percent for much of the contest. It was not quite the Lynx’s usual pace of play as the team struggled to convert offensively throughout, scoring only 22 points in the first half.

The Lynx took control early with a 6-0 lead, but were held without a field goal for nearly eight minutes of the first quarter. This gave the Sparks (5-9) time to rattle off 20 unanswered points.

The unfriendly rims were a puzzling development to coach Jen Gillom as the team went to the locker room trailing 35-22 after scoring just nine points in the second quarter.

Still the team had a chance to win at the end and could not close the deal.

“I told them, we’ve got to do it now,” coach Jen Gillom said. “We don’t have time to keep learning and learning. Our lessons should be learned in the first half. I think they’re growing. I don’t think this game was so much as a young, mental mistakes. The ball was going in and going out, just some freaky things happening tonight.”

It was the fast pace of play and some fresh legs off the bench that helped the Lynx snap their first-half funk and erase a 15-point deficit in the second half and overcome 20 unanswered points from the Sparks in the first quarter.

The bench scored 29 points to help lead an 11-2 run that cut the lead to three by the end of the third quarter.

Even with offensive struggles throughout the game – Minnesota shot 38.2 percent for the game and 27.3 percent at the half – the team fought its way back and found itself with a chance to win at the end.

“I just think we knew if we didn’t step it up in the second half, we were going to lose the game,” Humphrey said. “We dug ourselves a really deep hole in the first half and with a team like Los Angeles, they have so many weapons and so many different people that can hurt you on any given night, it was too deep for us to climb out.”

Hodges led the team with 14 points and four assists. Humphrey added 11 points and Charde Houston scored 10.

Thompson, though, got plenty of help including 12 points and 10 rebounds from Candace Parker and 11 points each from Betty Lennox and Milton-Jones. Thompson also added eight rebounds and four assists to her stat line.

Gillom said the team is past the point of the season where it can look to outside factors for excuses and needs to start applying the lessons from its losses.

With the Sparks seemingly rounding back to form and the Silver Stars closing in on that third playoff spot, the players are trying to heed that mantra.

“It’s definitely time for us to get on top of this,” McCants said. “We’ve already had a half of a season. Right now it’s just time to execute and get the job done. From here on out that’s what we have to do. There will be no more excuses and no more we should haves.”