Tiffany Mitchell of the Minnesota Lynx made the steal that all but sealed the Los Angeles Sparks’ doom Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. She had a career-high-tying and game-high five steals on the night, including two pick-6s over the course of an 11-3 first-quarter Lynx run that gave her team a one-point lead and made it competitive for the rest of the contest.
The big-time steal came with 15 seconds remaining and the Lynx leading 64-61. Napheesa Collier then made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a two-possession game with eight ticks to go. Nneka Ogwumike missed a three that would have cut it to one at five seconds and Minnesota held on for the 67-61 win.
Collier finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds and three steals to continue her phenomenal season. She got the better of her duel with N. Ogwumike (20 points, nine boards). Bridget Carleton added 14 points and six rebounds to the winning cause and hit four key second-half threes. Mitchell was good for eight points, four boards and two assists in addition to her five swipes.
Collier was cashing in from just behind the free throw line, with field goals from there coming at 3:28 remaining and 1:26 remaining to give the Lynx (4-8) leads of 62-59 and 64-61, respectively. The first was a bit lucky, as it banked in, but the second was pure.
Collier missed a chance at a dagger when she created separation from Karlie Samuelson and shot a short jumper in the paint that went in and out at 25 seconds remaining. But then Mitchell saved the day.
Carleton and Sparks point guard Jordin Canada went back and forth to open the fourth. Carleton was just a tad better and prevented LA (5-7) from getting too much momentum. Canada broke the tie that existed entering the frame with a three, but then Carleton hit a deep trey to answer. Canada followed with a short bank shot, but Carleton answered with a right-corner three to end the duel 6-5 in favor of Minnesota.
The second and third quarters were also back and forth.
At the 4:50 mark of the third, Collier hit a left-wing three that made it 43-40 Lynx before LA answered with a 4-0 run. Collier then blocked Chiney Ogwumike on one end before finishing inside on the other to make it 45-44 Minnesota. N. Ogwumike made a quick-thinking dump-off pass to C. Ogwumike while both were deep in the paint and C. Ogwumike converted on the layup that made it 46-45 LA. A Samuelson trey would put the Sparks up 49-47, but Collier tied the game entering the final frame with a tip-in.
Early in the third, Carleton went from left corner to right corner with threes at both spots to make the score 35-33 Lynx and 40-35 Lynx, respectively. But N. Ogwumike answered the latter with a 5-0 individual run that tied the game. She drove inside for a contested bucket and then converted on a 3-point play.
In the second quarter, the Sparks scored just 15 points and the Lynx scored just 13. The ball just didn’t want to go through the basket for either side, as was epitomized by Carleton’s 0-of-2 effort at the stripe with 22 seconds remaining in the frame.
LA opened the second on a 5-0 run to take a four-point lead. Samuelson hit a triple and Destanni Henderson followed that with a pick-6 on the ensuing possession. Minnesota would later take two-point leads on a Collier contested layup and a Collier turnaround inside make. But Rae Burrell buried a left-corner three to make it 30-27 Sparks. LA led the rest of the frame and by one at the break.
During the 11-3 run in the first, Mitchell’s first pick-6 came on a low-energy pass; the second was more impressive on the part of Mitchell as she sprinted into the passing lane and caught a laser before taking it to the house to cut Minnesota’s deficit to 18-14. From there, it was a 5-0 Lynx run featuring a Collier driving inside bucket and a Nikolina Milić three.
N. Ogwumike scored LA’s first four points. Samuelson later made it 9-2 Sparks with a triple that occurred while N. Ogwumike was pushed over right in front of Samuelson. N. Ogwumike followed the trey with a free throw for a 4-point play.
Canada finished with 10 points, five rebounds and five helpers. She was 2-of-3 from three while Samuelson was 3-of-5. Collier was 12-of-20 from the field.
The Sparks were without Lexie Brown and Layshia Clarendon while the Lynx were without Diamond Miller, Aerial Powers and Jessica Shepard.