Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 4, 2008
It's not who you start, it's how you finish.

The Sparks went with a new look Thursday night against the Minnesota Lynx, starting Shannon Bobbitt and Raffaella Masciadri in the backcourt for the first time this season, but their fourth-quarter problems continued in an 88-70 loss at Staples Center, their third in a row and fourth in the last six games.



* Up and away
Up and away

Unlike the previous two games, when the Sparks (10-6) blew double-digit leads down the stretch, they trailed by one point to start the fourth quarter. But that's when the Sparks appeared to gasp, getting outscored, 15-0, during the first four minutes. Leading scorers Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker didn't get off a shot during that stretch.

"We were right in the game and just gave the game away," said Penny Toler, the Sparks general manager who huddled with owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson for several minutes afterward. "The bottom line is, no one is to blame, we're all in this together, we just have to try to figure this out, and we will figure it out."

Leslie had a season-high 26 points and 10 rebounds for her ninth double-double this season. Parker played through foul trouble and finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

Bobbitt, a teammate of Parker's at Tennessee last season, didn't suit up the previous two games but made the first start of her career. She finished with three points, four assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes. The Sparks committed 14 turnovers but only one by their point guards.

During the fourth quarter, fans were calling for Bobbitt to replace Kiesha Brown, but by the time she did, the Sparks were already down by 11 points. Masciadri made her first start of the season and second of her career, getting the nod over Marie Ferdinand-Harris, but she struggled from the field, missing all five of her attempts to go scoreless. Her replacement, Sidney Spencer, didn't fare much better, making two of eight shots and scoring six points.

"We had a lot of wide-open looks, and they just didn't go down," said Coach Michael Cooper. "It's going to be tough to win when your shooters aren't hitting."

For the second straight game, the Sparks had trouble guarding the other team's best scorer.

Seimone Augustus had a season-high 29 points. Candace Wiggins, chosen second overall in the draft behind Parker, finished with 19.

"You have to give them credit, they're young, they're real feisty, they don't know any other way than to play hard," forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said of the Lynx. "We should take a page out of their book."

LIKE I WAS SAYING BEFORE, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE SPARKS LOSS, SHANNON BOBBITT IS SURELY ONE ANSWER TO THE GUARD SITUATION, NOW PUT HARRIS IN WITH HER AND SEE HOW THAT WORKS.

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