Just sad

Last night the playoff-bound Sparks lost to the Atlanta Dream – the team with the worst record in the league. It was a deserved loss, too, as the Sparks played like crap. It was webcast and on NBAtv, so many fans have already seen the total lack of offense on LA’s part, and the coinciding absence of defense. While the Sparks struggled and worked for every point they got, the Dream seemed to throw in shots easily, after effortless transitions.

I’m not going to rag on individual players like a lot of people are doing today, as there is plenty of blame to go around in last night’s game. I’m not going to pretend to know what the problem is with the team’s record; fans have been trying to figure that one out since the slump began in June. And I’m not going to lay out a plan for what “should” be done now; that’s up to the owners.

I’m just a bit down today.

It’s not that I had humongous expectations for the Sparks, as so many did. Both fans and non-fans were projecting the Sparks to win the WNBA title this year. I wasn’t sure if they could go that far, but I did think they’d do better than they have. That’s the core of my disappointment. I feel that for whatever reason, the Sparks have underachieved this year. And for someone raised on track and field, that’s one of the worst things that could happen in sports.

The art of middle- and long-distance races is to go out hard, but not too hard. You want to save some for the end and not die in the final stretch, but you don’t want to have too much left over, either. If you do, you’re left with a stinking pile of “what could have been”s. That’s how I feel about the Sparks this year.

There have been flashes of brilliance this season. We have seen them play like a championship team a few times, with all cylinders clicking and things running 100 percent smoothly. They have the capability to be a championship game team, but it’s not happening. That just kills me. It also doesn’t help that I really like this group of women, and that three Tennessee Volunteers who I really care about are on this team.

I didn’t have a good feeling before last night’s game, and my instincts are always right about such things. I just didn’t think that by three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, I’d be slunk down in my seat at Staples Center, head in my hand and pressed against the back of the chair, hardly able to watch the Sparks self-destruct.

If I could figure out why teams with talent sometimes can’t pull it together, I would be living in a Hollywood Hills mansion. The Dream didn’t look like a bad team at all last night, and on paper, they should be much better than they are. What happens in these cases? It’s no doubt a unique set of circumstances in each case that come together correctly, for bad results.

On the upside, it was good to see the Dream’s Betty Lennox have a good game last night. Girl deserves it.