The San Antonio Silver Stars felt they squandered a chance to take control of their Western Conference semifinal series on the road in Game 1.
They won’t have the opportunity to get even with the Los Angeles Sparks in their typical home arena.
With a concert forcing Saturday’s Game 2 into San Antonio’s Freeman Coliseum, the Silver Stars seek to avoid a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit.
San Antonio led the Sparks with a minute to go in Thursday night’s postseason opener, but Los Angeles went 10 for 10 from the free-throw line in the last 46 seconds to claim a 93-86 victory.
“When you look at the free-throw line, that’s the game,” Silver Stars guard Becky Hammon said. “We gave that one away. That’s definitely a missed opportunity for us.”
The Sparks attempted 32 foul shots compared with 11 for San Antonio, a factor that didn’t seem to sit well with Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes.
“I’ve got to look at the tape and see why we fouled so much,” Hughes said. “We fouled least in the WNBA this season.
“It’s the first game I’ve ever coached Becky and Sophia (Young) where they didn’t shoot a free throw.”
Los Angeles’ Kristi Toliver shot 10, making all of them as part of a 29-point performance. The fourth-year guard was named the WNBA’s most improved player before Game 1.
Teammate Candace Parker, the runner-up for league MVP, added 25 points and nine rebounds despite being benched briefly in the third quarter.
She admitted she wasn’t putting forth her best effort on the boards early in the game, and she wasn’t happy that the Sparks faced a four-point halftime deficit at home. The game was also at an alternate site, the University of Southern California’s Galen Center.
“We need to come out with more aggression and energy,” Parker said. “We were kind of dead the first couple of quarters.”
Another victory would put the Sparks in the West finals for the first time since 2009, although they’ll have a chance to advance at home Monday even if they lose Saturday.
With a Red Hot Chili Peppers show displacing this game from the AT&T Center, San Antonio needs a win next door in the older and smaller Freeman Coliseum to avoid yet another short postseason. The Silver Stars have reached the playoffs in six consecutive years, but haven’t won a series since 2008.
They certainly aren’t ready to give up hope, especially after defeating Los Angeles in three of the four regular-season meetings, including both at home.
Toliver did not score in 17 minutes in the Sparks’ last visit to San Antonio, a 94-80 loss June 28.
“We know we can beat this team,” said Silver Stars reserve Danielle Adams, who had 17 points in Game 1. “Our motivation is high. Our drive is high. The next two games are going to be very good.”