Minnesota’s Physicality And Focus Leads To Sound Victory In Game 2

Todd Barin

Web Editorial Associate

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The defending WNBA Champions came out looking for revenge on Tuesday night and played with that type of tenacity, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 79-60.

After suffering a loss in Game 1 of the Finals at home on Sunday afternoon, Minnesota seemed to be much more physical and aggressive throughout Tuesday’s contest.

“I thought they were very hungry,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. “I know I use that word a lot, but to me that’s what jumps out to me when you see a team play with strong desire. This was a very important — I mean, we played like this game was more important to them than it was to us, and that’s unfortunate, because you don’t get these opportunities often, so you have to play like you know you may not get this game back.”

2014 League MVP Maya Moore, and this year’s Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles, were particularly ferocious on the boards, hauling in 27 between the two of them, six of which were offensive.

The two Olympians, along with 4-time WNBA Champion Rebekkah Brunson, were able to control Los Angeles’ Bigs all night, only allowing Candace Parker and this year’s MVP Nneka Ogwumike to combine for: 20 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, steals and blocks, and six turnovers.

“I know defensively we were way better today, not just because of the field goal percentage, I just thought our commitment to our concepts were better,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Obviously I don’t know that we could have been worse than what we did last game as far as the types of easy baskets we gave up, so obviously we cleaned some things up. I was happy about that.”

Numbers Game:

32.9: The Lynx were constantly disrupting LA’s flow on offense which lead to the Sparks shooting this disappointing percentage from the floor.

15: Defense was obviously a point of emphasis for Minnesota going into Game 2 and they did a great job of executing their game plan. For the second straight game, the Lynx held the Sparks to only three made 3-pointers, forcing Los Angeles to shoot 3-for-20 and this percentage from beyond-the-arc.

“Well, I mean, I hope we can make some of them,” Agler said of LA’s 3-point shooting going forward. “You know, like there’s a couple shots Kristi had wide open and just didn’t make. We’ve got some other people that are pretty good shooters, have been all year long statistically that can hit those shots. I do think this: I think we have to adjust. I don’t know if we want to take 20 threes, but I also know that my approach is you take what the defense gives you, too, and so in a lot of cases they were giving us that shot tonight.”

14: As mentioned previously, Fowles, Moore and Brunson seemed to be playing possessed on Tuesday night. The three-headed rebounding monster combined for 35 of Minnesota’s 46 total rebounds. Their amazing performances on the glass allowed the Lynx to out-rebound the Sparks by this many throughout the game.

“Well, it’s what we do, and so, yeah, I want us to play to our identity,” Reeve said regarding the amount of rebounds Minnesota had on Tuesday. “It’s what we’re about in terms of when you have Rebekkah Brunson, whatever team she’s ever been on, that’s what she gives that team, and obviously she’s been doing that for us for a long time.”

7: Offensively, Minnesota looked a lot more comfortable in Game 2 than they did in their first Finals matchup against the Sparks. The Lynx were able to shoot 45.2 percent from the field and tally this many more assists in the game than LA.

Leader of the Pack: Maya Moore

After going scoreless in the first half in their game on Sunday, Moore came out determined and played a game-high 35 minutes with incredible passion and focus. The 6’0 forward out of the University of Connecticut scored a game-high 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, snatched 12 rebounds, dished out three assists and came up with two steals and a block.

“There’s only so many things you can do to take your mind off of a loss like that,” Moore said of their Game 1 loss. “Yeah, falling asleep was pretty hard. But thankfully I didn’t have any nightmares. I was able to sleep through the night after that. But today was better. Our team is so great at being positive. Lindsay Whalen is one of those people that you get around her and she’s just going to pick you up. Sylvia is always smiling, and ‘Mone is going to come in and start talking trash and just get you going, just the good trash that gets you going and competitive. I’m kind of joking on that.”

Highlight of the Night: Quarterback Maya Moore

Starting at QB for the Lynx on Tuesday evening was the decorated Olympian and Champion Maya Moore. Nearing the end of the second quarter, Moore hauled in a rebound and threw a length-of-the-court one-handed pass to Lindsay Whalen who finished it off with an And-1.

“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. “I think Maya more than anything just wanted for our team to play the way that we’re capable of playing, and I thought she gave us a big lift with her focus, her intensity. She had a double-double, she got rebounds, she made some threes. She’s really hard to guard, all the little shot fakes. She was very, very active, and I think Maya had a lot of fun today.”

Up Next:

The Lynx will now travel to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks and they really shouldn’t be nervous about playing at the Staples Center as they were 2-0 in the regular season when playing in LA. Game 3 will be played on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and will be available for viewing on ESPN 2 or listening on 106.1 BOB FM.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Seimone Augustus said. “We were in this position before last year, and I mean, the thing for us is we know what we needed to do. We watched the entire game footage from Game 1, and we just seen where we made mistakes. Not saying that LA didn’t capitalize on the mistakes that we made, but there was a lot of empty possessions where they were able to get out in transition and spark their offense, a lot of defensive possessions where we had a lot of miscommunication. Those are simple things that we can clean up, but those are key details that can cost you the game, which it did in Game 1. So tonight was just another night where we were able to clean these things up, and if we keep improving coming into Game 3, we’ll put ourselves in a better position to pull off another win.”