LOS ANGELES — The smattering of fans are standing, shrieking, bouncing, transforming the lower bowl of Crypto.com Arena into a downtown block party.
Dancers hop across a stage behind one basket. Sparky the Dog leads cheers from midcourt. Lisa Leslie waves from courtside. The relentless DJ Mal-Ski fills every quiet moment with chants and cheers and pleas.
"We need you!" he exhorts the intimate gathering. "C'mon, y'all!"
The Sparks began their 26th summer in Los Angeles on Tuesday with their usual furious flair, but on this opening night they needed something more than a community connection and shared spirit.
They needed a win.
They didn't get it.
Arguably the most important summer in Sparks history began with a home-opening loss to what was the only winless team in the WNBA — and wait, it gets worse.
The final two plays in an 87-84 defeat to the Minnesota Lynx were botched by the author of some of the greatest final seconds in this city's basketball history.
Five games into the season, coach Derek Fisher is already in the hot seat. After yet another potentially happy ending dissolved into chaos, the beloved former Laker is surely wearing out his generous Sparks welcome.