MINNEAPOLIS -- For Los Angeles Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom, Tuesday night's 71-58 victory at Minnesota was very significant.
Not only were the Sparks a game back of the Lynx for the final playoff spot in the WNBA's Western Conference. Not only was Los Angeles looking for its first winning streak of the season. But Gillom was playing against the team she coached just a year ago.
And that's why Gillom had a huge smile on her face afterward.
"You don't even know, a lot of satisfaction," said Gillom, who led Minnesota to a 14-20 record last season. "I'm not going to lie, it's a great feeling to be back here with familiar faces and it's where I got my start. To come back and win is pretty amazing. It was a little emotional for me tonight, but it's a great win."
Because besides securing a little vindication, Gillom watched her team play the way she would like -- limiting turnovers, sharing the ball, rebounding and playing stingy defense.
Three days after using offense to win at Connecticut, Los Angeles (8-16) used its defense to win at Minnesota. The Sparks limited the Lynx (7-15) to 26 percent shooting overall and only 42 points over the final three quarters. In the second quarter, Los Angeles' zone defense contributed to Minnesota going only 2-for-20 from the floor.
Most importantly, Los Angeles held Minnesota star Seimone Augustus to a season-low six points. Minnesota's leading scorer, Augustus missed her first seven field goal attempts and was held without a basket before making a 3-pointer with 8:12 left in the third quarter.
"That's very rewarding, especially limiting Seimone because that's very hard to do," said Sparks center Tina Thompson, who led all scorers with 24 points. "In my opinion, she's the most versatile player in the WNBA. She does a little bit of everything well, she has every shot you could think of on the court. Our guards did a great job on her and our zone helped."
Thompson and Noelle Quinn (17 points) provided much of the offense for a Los Angeles team that trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. Marie Ferdinand-Harris added 12 points for the Sparks.
It was clear that the Sparks, who now have two victories over the Lynx, knew the playoff implications of this game.
"We're a good team and sometimes when you can't put a string of wins together, your confidence can go down and you can start looking at each other," Quinn said. "It's very satisfying to know that we have our first winning streak of the season."
Leading 29-26 at halftime, the Sparks steadily stretched their cushion in the second half. Ferdinand-Harris scored 10 of her points in the third quarter and her transition basket with 2:54 to play in the third quarter gave Los Angeles a 46-39 lead. The lead grew to double digits in the fourth and the Sparks led 68-56 when Quinn drove to the basket and scored with 2:36 to play.
Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright each finished with 12 points to lead Minnesota.
"I don't know where I can even start with any one thing," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Probably the most frustrating thing is our inability to get the ball in the hole. In a game with this magnitude, you know [against] a team that is fighting for a playoff spot, we just haven't quite grasped how to win those kind of games."
For the Sparks, a victory in an important game provides some much-needed confidence and momentum.
"This team is capable of making the playoffs and that is something we have really picked up lately," Gillom said.