Playoff basketball returned to Minnesota Friday night, and Lynx fans didn't leave the Target Center disappointed.
In a game that went right down to the wire, the Minnesota Lynx (23-12) won game one of the Western Conference Semifinals over the Los Angeles Sparks (14-21) 67-65.
"I don't think we believe in moral victories - we lost, so I think if you look what's glaring on the stat sheet, it's the first quarter and third quarter," said Los Angles Sparks forward Candace Parker. "In the third quarter, we went through lulls and in the first quarter, we came out flat. We can't do that against a great team like this, they're going to take advantage of it and you don't know at what point in the game you're going to lose the game, but I think at that instant, that's when we lost the game in the first four minutes of the game and in the third quarter."
The Lynx struck first on Friday, jumping to a 5-0 lead. By the end of the opening quarter, the Lynx were able to extend their lead to 22-15 thanks to a 10 point performance from Maya Moore.
The second quarter belonged entirely to the Sparks. Los Angles opened the period on a huge 18-3 run, sparked by three quick turnovers by the Lynx. The Sparks were able to hold Moore to just two points in the quarter, and were able to take an eight-point lead at the peak of the run.
The Lynx responded though, going on an 8-3 run to close out the half. Los Angles had the advantage at the break 36-33.
"This team has great leaders that know how to respond," Moore said. "Everybody had great focus going into the locker room. People were speaking up, talking about what was going on and everybody was saying things that were great - very helpful - so going into the second half with the right mindset, knowing what we want to focus on as well as our energy - it worked out for us."
After getting shut down in the second quarter, Moore came out of the break strong. The All-Star game MVP dropped 15 points in the third, giving the Lynx the lead again 56-49.
Los Angles was able to stay in the game, though, bringing the game within one point with just over 90 seconds left in the game. In the end, though, the Lynx were able to outlast the Sparks' run, giving them the win.
"It's playoff basketball, it's back to back," said Lynx forward Seimone Agustus. "This time of year, players make plays - it's no secret what plays we run, what plays they run, everyone knows what they do. We expected a run, but we wanted to try to stop it and go on another run of our own, and we did. We made our plays and pushed forward... and
Moore led the Lynx, finishing the game with 33 points. Seimone Augustus was the only other player who finished in double figures, ending the game with 17 points.
Candace Parker led the Sparks with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike finished with 14 points, and Jantel Lavender and Kristi Toliver each finished with 12 points.
The two teams will face off again for game two of the three game series on Sunday at 3 pm EST in Los Angles.
"It will probably be as competitive as tonight was," said Los Angles Sparks coach Brian Agler. "Minnesota are great competitors and are well-coached. They can play both ends of the floor. We're a team that's getting better, we're improving, and getting a chance to play together. Our focus right now is to keep moving, learn from this game and improve."