Los Angeles, CA — It was billed as a “Clash of the Titans”, a true battle of superhuman teams that were a notch above the WNBA universe. And guess what, it was exactly that — with the Minnesota Lynx still proving to be the kryptonite to the Los Angeles Sparks.
“We played hard,” said LA coach Brian Agler. “Our desire is there. Our effort is there. Now we have to grow a little bit more on the trust factor and having a little bit more trust on each other.”
The first quarter came as no surprise when the Minnesota Lynx took a 26-18 lead over the Los Angeles Sparks on their home turf. The defending WNBA champions fell behind by six points to the Sparks early in the first quarter, but a 16-4 run for the Lynx gave them the momentum they were looking for to go up eight points to Los Angeles.
The Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson led their team to a successful first quarter with seven and six points, respectively. Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker led their team with seven and four points, respectively, to close out the first.
Rolling into the second quarter, some may have hoped for at least a little bit of a turnaround for Los Angeles. The two top-ranked teams in the league continued to battle it out, but the Sparks just couldn’t seem to find their groove.
A consistent six-point lead throughout the second quarter by the Lynx began to weigh on Los Angeles, as they could only seem to pull out the bare minimum. The Sparks were doing “just enough” to keep the game close, but there’s a reason why the Lynx are defending WNBA champions — they always stay far away in the score column.
But let's not negate the fact that Los Angeles closed out the second quarter strong, adding 19 more points to the scoreboard compared to Minnesota’s 16 points. It was clear that these two teams were equals, given the close score throughout the game.
After halftime had commenced, It was almost like deja vu all over again for the Sparks. Minnesota dominated the boards while Los Angeles crumbled under the pressure. The Sparks missed 10 straight shots in the third quarter while also shooting a season-low 33 percent from the field.
But wait… what was that? Kristi Toliver with the three!
A shift in momentum for Los Angeles landed them right back in the game after Toliver hit a three-pointer to put her team right back in the race only to trail by four points to Minnesota.
Could the Sparks roll this energy into the fourth quarter? However, Maya Moore seemed to have something different in mind.
And even those she had an abysmal first half, Moore rebounded from her four-point half in a major way. Because Moore poured it on in the last quarter, as the Lynx were apparently just waiting for their superstar to carry them, and carry them she did. Because who wouldn’t want to have a player that could go to another level at a moment’s notice?
But Moore wasn’t the only one that rose to the moment, as her and Fowles ran the show in the fourth, as they set their eyes on the prize and took the win over the Sparks, 77-74.
The “Maya and Sylvia” show combined for 41 of the teams 77 points as they received their double-bye into the semi-finals. A notable effort by the Sparks at the end of the fourth quarter as Chelsea Gray rebounded a missed free throw and put up a three-pointer to shorten Minnesota’s lead to two points.
However, just as the rest of the evening went, consistency was key, and the Lynx assured everyone they had it under control as they took the win and improved their record to a league-best, 25-5.
Moore said after the game that it means a lot to beat a team like LA on the road twice.
“They are a great team, and have proven they are a great team all year long,” Moore said.
“I don’t think either team played as well as we could though, we just had to gut it out and make a few more plays and good decisions. They were resilient at the end of the game but we hung on and hit our free throws and came out the win.”
But Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler said it’s still too early in September, and this loss doesn’t mean they’ve lost hope.
“Our goal is to position ourselves in order to win a championship,” Agler said.
“We want to get ourselves seeded as high as possible, either one or two. Minnesota has the tiebreaker now- that’s reality. We have to hang in there if we want to compete for a championship.”