Minneapolis, MN — Roles were reversed tonight as the Minnesota Lynx came off the bench fighting, extinguishing the fire the Los Angeles Sparks started two nights ago.
The Lynx, determined to start Game 2 strong, proved they were a force to be reckoned with, capitalizing off a Rebekkah Brunson steal in the closing seconds to even the series with the Sparks, leaving Minnesota with a 70-68 win on Tuesday night.
Coming into Tuesday's game, Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve was beyond disappointed in her team's performance. The message she sent must have been heard, because the Lynx came out the locker room ready for war.
The first quarter belonged to the Lynx, as they dominated Los Angeles in every aspect. At the end of the quarter, Minnesota held a healthy 28-10 lead.
With 1:47 left in the first half, the Lynx solidified their lead going into the second half over the Sparks, by going on a 13-2 run, expanding their lead by 19 points and going into halftime leading 45-26.
Lindsay Whalen started the stampede for Minnesota in the first two frames with nine first-half points, while Sylvia Fowles completed a double-double and tied the record for the most rebounds in the WNBA finals first half with 10.
The Minnesota Lynx continued to hold off the Los Angeles Sparks after halftime, but just barely as an awaken Sparks team looked more like the team from Sunday. Things looked potentially scary when Lynx forward Maya Moore, with less than five minutes left to play in the third quarter, went to the bench with her fourth foul of the game.
With her on the bench, Los Angeles closed the gap drastically on the Lynx — who were up by as many as 20 — now only led by 10 going into the final frame, 60-50.
Candace Parker finally got it going in the second half, leaving questions about her ankle (which was rolled up during warm-ups) answered.
“I don't think it affected her,” Head coach Brian Agler stated on Parker’s tweaked ankle. “You know, we're not a team that makes excuses. You know, if she plays, she plays. If she can't play, then she doesn't play. So as long as she's on the floor, then we expect Candace to be Candace.”
Los Angeles came back from the locker room ready to play, slowly closing the gap behind her explosive play. Parker went from not scoring in the first two periods, to leading her team with 17 by the end of the game.
With two back-to-back questionable foul calls on Sparks guard Odyssey Sims and Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson, and less than one minute left in the fourth quarter, the crowd at Williams Arena was on their feet. With only 13.4 second left in the game, the Sparks were only down two.
But, with the ball down one possession with 13.4 seconds left, Los Angeles could not inbound the ball -- turning it over to Minnesota. However, moments later the Lynx had their own struggles as forward Seimone Augustus lost the ball out of bounds after stumbling — Los Angeles still had a chance to win or tie the game.
The Sparks, looking to go to Game One hero Chelsea Gray, looked to attack the rim or possibly pull up, but not before only for Lynx forward Brunson swiped at the ball for the steal and sealed the 70-68 win for Minnesota.
Sylvia Fowles commanded the court tonight for Minnesota posting 13 points and 17 rebounds (a WNBA Finals rebounding record).
“I know what I can do and how I can get it done. I think coach showed me some film on some possessions where I could have had some rebounds,” Fowles shared after the win. “I kept that at the forefront of my brain. I was like ok, make sure you crash the boards. If you can’t get it, still crash the boards. I think that’s why I was so successful tonight.”
Candace Parker, with a valiant attempt in the second half to make a comeback for the Lynx, scored 17 points, had five rebounds and six assists.
“We're obviously thinking about Game 3 already, and we know it's going to be a fight -- at this point in the series, it really doesn't matter where we play, I don't think. It's going to be a fight for sure,” declared Parker after the game.
The series now heads to Los Angeles for the third game in the best-of-five series. Tip-off is set for Friday, Sept. 29 at 9 pm ET.