St. Paul, MN -- It may have been eight months ago, but their last meeting was evidently still fresh in the memories of the Minnesota Lynx as they beat down on their rival, the Los Angeles Sparks tonight at home. Winning by 11, the Lynx improved their record for the season to 13-1 and remain at the top of the league’s leaderboard with the All-Star break just a week away.
Facing their toughest matchup of the season thus far, the Lynx were led by one of the top MVP prospect, Sylvia Fowles with 20 points and 13 rebounds. But she alone, was not the star of the show.
In a matchup saturated with big names, the focus and the eyes were understandably on the decorated starting 10. But, it was the bench of Minnesota, scoring 33 points, that was credited with the performance of the night.
A close second in the standings for league MVP, is none other than the reigning MVP, Nneka Ogwumike. She was certainly found to be the most valuable of the Sparks tonight as she posted 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the loss.
Sparks’ head coach and the WNBA’s June coach of the month, Brian Agler, was frustrated that his championship squad “did not come out and take control” from the get-go. It was obvious that control was in the hands of the top-tiered Lynx as they snatched the lead and pace of the game early.
Minnesota disrupted the offensive of Los Angeles with their evolving defensive attack concluding in 10 turnovers in the first half.
The known faces of the two franchises, Candace Parker and Maya Moore began the game with a little noise, if any, at all. Moore was held to six points, and Parker, a goose-egg in the half.
Parker watched from the bench as teammate, Ogwumike led the charge in combating their nine-point deficit from the first quarter in a 14-2 run with the second winding down. However, Minnesota would not stand for that.
In the final seconds of the half, the Lynx relentlessly put up two baskets to regain a lead in double-digits (46-36) before heading to the locker room.
Leading for Minnesota at the half was Renee Montgomery off the bench. She impressively stole the ball three times and was responsible for adding 12 points to the board shooting 4-6 from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc.
Knowing that the Sparks had it in them, I think we were all relieved to see the excitement pick up in the third period. Parker finally scored her first basket, and a bit of suspense was added to the court when Ogwumike placed herself in foul trouble.
Steadily battling against the Lynx’s lead, Los Angeles brought the game within four, their smallest deficit since a lead was established. They outscored Minnesota again for the quarter, this time by three, and did not allow a single offensive rebound to be snatched.
Fowles stepped up and added eight in the third as she, Moore, Montgomery, and Seimone Augustus were all scoring in the double-digits. Although not as large, they regained a sizable lead and entered the final period ahead by seven, 68-61.
Fueled by Montgomery’s huge three-pointer at the previous buzzer, Minnesota’s momentum continued through the remaining 10 minutes and their lead was never relinquished.
In the match-up between the best of the best, the Lynx came out victorious and snapped the reigning champions’ eight-game winning streak in the process.
Unfortunately, Parker appeared to draw a connection to her game four performance in last year’s finals, rather than her crowning game. Proving it difficult yet again to make an impact against the Lynx, she only scored one basket and had three rebounds and three assists.
The teams will meet twice more, both games in August, before the playoffs begin. The next outing will be Friday, August 11th, again at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.