Tonight was supposed to be the Los Angeles Sparks' night.
The Tulsa Shock were in Los Angeles coming off a physical 20th consecutive loss in Seattle last night. The fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars (13-14) fell apart in the second half against the Minnesota Lynx (22-6) earlier in the evening to leave an opportunity for the Sparks to move closer to a playoff spot.
While things seemed to be stacked in their favor on the court and in the standings, star forward Candace Parker had pledged to donate $10 to the Alzheimer's Association for every block, rebound, and steal she got in honor of Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt who just announced that she has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia this week. At halftime, a brief ceremony was held to announce that Sparks legend Lisa Leslie has joined the team's ownership group.
Everything was in place for a Sparks' celebration after the final buzzer sounded.
But porous Sparks defense and a game-winning jumper by Shock wing Sheryl Swoopes reminiscent of her early years in the league instead led to a dramatic 77-75 loss that left the visitors jubilant in spite of all the other reason for L.A. fans to celebrate.
Despite another poor performance and the bitter taste of becoming part of an Oklahoman trivia question, the Sparks' (12-16) playoff situation is still not quite as in jeopardy as it might feel tonight. While they do have two consecutive games against the Storm - who they beat by 24 with Parker in the lineup earlier this season - the Silver Stars begin a difficult home stand with the Lynx in L.A. on Sunday.
But there was good news for the Storm tonight who moved into sole possession of second place with the Phoenix Mercury (15-12) losing to the Connecticut Sun on the road and falling a half game into third place. However, the Mercury have road games against the 5-22 Washington Mystics and Shock coming up as the Storm prepare for Parker and the Sparks. That puts added pressure on both teams as home court advantage in the first round - should they remain second and third - would be significant in a matchup that the Storm have dominated in recent years.