Sam's 3-Pointer Helps Fever Beat Sparks

The Associated Press
Friday, July 6, 2007; 5:58 AM

LOS ANGELES -- The Indiana Fever did something they had never done in Los Angeles and sent the Sparks where they haven't been in four years. Sheri Sam hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 39 seconds left and the Fever won for the first time in Los Angeles, beating the Sparks 57-56 Thursday night.

"We'll take the one-point win and run out of the building," Indiana coach Brian Winters said. "I feel good to get a win, but I can't say we played well to do it. We looked a little like a step slow, and our shots were short, and we just didn't shoot the ball very well at all."

Sam made Indiana's first basket of the fourth quarter and the last to give the Fever a season sweep of the Sparks, who lost their fourth in a row for the first time since July 30-Aug. 6, 2003.

"In the end, you want to win," said Christi Thomas, who had the ball knocked away by Tamika Catchings in the final seconds to preserve the victory. "Everywhere I was, there was a hand coming from somewhere."

Catchings had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Tammy Sutton-Brown added 14 points for the Fever, who took a half-game lead over idle Detroit in the Eastern Conference.

"Down the stretch, our defense was what really helped us," Catchings said. "In our minds, we made a lot of dumb mistakes and didn't execute on offense the way we were supposed to, but a win is a win, whether it's by one or 50 or 20 or whatever."

Sidney Spencer scored 18 points and Sherill Baker added 15 for the Sparks, who've dropped eight of their last 10.

"You can't knock our effort," Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "That was great, the first time in a long time, and we've just got to stay with it."

Both teams shot less than 35 percent in the game and went scoreless for 2 1/2 minutes early in the fourth quarter. The teams combined to score just 20 points in the period.

The Sparks got a 3-pointer by Kiesha Brown and a layup by Spencer to go up 56-52 with 2:42 remaining. Catchings scored on a driving layup to get Indiana within two points.

Thomas missed a 15-footer with 55 seconds left before Sam's 3-pointer.

"They got a couple of transition baskets and the crowd got back in it," Sam said. "That gave them a little bit of energy. But at the same time, we were able to make our stand."

The Sparks controlled the ball over the final 39 seconds, but couldn't convert. Mwadi Mabika and Brown also missed, then Mabika turned the ball over.

"It comes down to a defensive stop, we didn't get an offensive board and (Indiana hit) an open 3," Brown said. "Those possessions add up."

Spencer scored 10 points in the third and Baker had seven in a row to rally the Sparks from a seven-point deficit to a one-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

Tied after the first quarter, the Fever outscored the Sparks 13-10 in the second to lead 27-23 at halftime.

The Sparks were without forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who sat out because of a sore right hamstring, and guard Temeka Johnson, who also missed Tuesday's game against Seattle while tending to a family matter.

"Taj is our morale booster and so is Temeka. We're looking forward to having them back," Thomas said. "We need a little bit of everything right now."

© 2007 The Associated Press