Minnesota, MN — After a dramatic game one finish, a lot remained up in the air during the WNBA Finals. Would LA get a win hangover? Would Minnesota lose enough momentum to drop two in a row on their home court?
Minnesota came off on top during game two, but there were no buzzer beaters this time around: Only a stellar defensive effort by the Lynx. Here are four takeaways as the series heads to Los Angeles.
Defense really DOES win championships
The Lynx looked like they were back to being themselves, at least compared to game one. The reason they were able to dominate Los Angeles and hold them to 60 points was because of their team defense. A key stretch of that defense came when Minnesota would not allow LA to score a field goal for the final 4:50 of the second quarter. This gave them a comfortable 14-point lead going into the half.
Minnesota prevented LA from moving the ball how they normally would, as the Sparks only notched 13 assists as a team tonight. They made LA ineffective in fast break opportunities, and Candace Parker was held to just 6 points on 3-12 shooting and recorded zero offensive rebounds.
All of these things are accomplishments in and of themselves. Together, they are a lethal combination. To close out the series, either team is going to need two more defensive performances like the Lynx had tonight.
Winning on the road
Minnesota put together a great effort, but now they need to get at least one win on LA’s home floor to avoid a Sparks celebration. On the other hand, LA has now put themselves in great position heading into games three and four on their home court.
This advantage was one that Kristi Tolliver acknowledged following the game.
“We came here to do what we want to do, and that was to get one. We feel pretty good about that, and now we need to take care of business at home.
“If we can defend our home court, and we've been good at home all season long, you know, I think good things are going to happen.”
Home court advantage didn’t mean much when the Sparks and the Lynx faced off in 2016. As a matter of fact, the home team lost in all three match-ups between these two teams during the regular season. But during a finals series, being the away team is still a disadvantage that a team has to overcome.
Production from members of Minnesota’s bench was a major issue on Sunday, but was remedied heading into tonight’s game. The Lynx bench added 14 points tonight compared to just two points in game one.
Los Angeles wasn’t as bad tonight as Minnesota was on Sunday (they recorded 11 bench points), but production can still be better for both teams. Basketball is a five on five sport, but you need production from more than just five people to be successful in a championship best of five series.
The mental game
When the series began, I predicted that this is what would determine who walks away as your 2016 WNBA champions. Both of these teams are in about as close of a statistical tie as humanly possible.
Tonight, Minnesota played the mental game better.
When Sylvia Fowles got a flagrant foul? Minnesota didn’t pout. It fueled them.
When LA would cut a 14-point lead to just three at one point in the third quarter? The Lynx would answer with an 8-0 run.
Another issue from game one was Maya Moore’s production. She was a little late to the party on Sunday, but that seemed to be remedied in game two.
“Maya responded. Everybody asked me, how do I think Maya is going to respond from Game 1, and I said, if I know Maya, I know Maya hasn't slept and Maya probably wanted to play yesterday and get right back to it,” Reeve said.
And Fowles was quick to remind everyone that Minnesota has been in this position before.
“Eight of us have been in this situation before. We know this is going to be a long series. There’s no reason to panic at any time.”
Finally, let’s not forget, just over 48 hours prior, Minnesota lost on their home court in dramatic fashion. They could have become intimidated, but instead rose to the challenge.
Now, it’s LA’s turn to see if they can do the same heading into game three.