Tulsa squeaks past the Sparks, stuns Staples Center crowd
Los Angeles â€“ The Tulsa Shock did something Friday night that they have not done in a long time: they won a game.
The Shock garnered only their second victory of the season, squeaking past the 12-16 Sparks 77-75 in front of a crowd of 8,997 at the Staples Center. They snapped a 20-game losing streak and picked up their first road win. It was also the first win for interim head coach Teresa Edwards, who took over July 10 when former coach Nolan Richardson resigned.
Edwards emerged from the festive Tulsa locker room after the game with the game ball in her hands. She said all the players had signed it and given it to her to signify her first win as a head coach.
â€œIt’s unreal. It’s unbelievable,â€ a smiling Edwards said. â€œI was waiting to see if we were ever going to get one.â€
â€œWe’ve been working so hard, I don’t know how to take it right now.â€
Tiffany Jackson led the Shock with 20 points, while Ivory Latta and Sheryl Swoopes added 18 and 17, respectively.
For the Sparks, DeLisha Milton-Jones put up 24 points and Tina Thompson added 16.
Milton-Jones said Tulsa â€œwas due for a win.â€
â€œThey put us in a situation where our backs were against the wall.â€
Sparks Coach Joe Bryant said his team let the Shock stay in the game, and then they began shooting the ball well.
â€œI’m afraid of when we play good offense, because then our defense suffers.â€
The Sparks got off to a strong start and were up by as much as 10 points in the first quarter and seven points in the second. But two consecutive jump shots just before halftime by Shock point guard Latta put her team up 40-39 at the break.
The two teams continued battling in the second half, with neither maintaining more than a four-point lead until the 6:39 mark of the fourth quarter, when a Jackson layup put Tulsa up 68-62. The Sparks could not recover.
A Tina Thompson bank shot at 34 seconds got the Sparks within one point. On the next play Jackson was fouled and made one free throw shot. A DeLisha Milton-Jones layup at 22 seconds tied the game at 75. But it was a 16-foot jump shot by veteran Swoopes with 2.9 seconds to go that won the game for the Shock. The Sparks moved the ball inbounds slowly, and Milton-Jones took an awkward half-court shot as time expired.
The Sparks, who are in the playoff hunt, missed a chance to move within a half game of San Antonio for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The loss stunned the Staples Center crowd into silence and muted the celebratory atmosphere created at halftime when Los Angeles announced that former star center Lisa Leslie was joining the Sparks ownership group.
The Sparks travel to Seattle today and will face the Storm Sunday night. The Storm comes to Los Angeles early in the week for a Tuesday showdown.
The Shock host Connecticut at home on Sunday.