Web Editorial Associate
In what could have been considered their most important game of the season, Minnesota went to Los Angeles and defeated the now 24-6 Sparks, 77-74.
With both teams coming into the game sporting a 24-5 record, and having each beaten each other once this season, Tuesday night’s nationally televised game meant that the #1 spot in the WNBA, along with their series tiebreaker were up for grabs.
Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles did a great job all night imposing their will on Los Angeles on both ends of the floor. The two Olympians combined for 41 points, going 16-for-29 from the field, 16 boards, six assists, two steals and three blocks.
Rebekkah Brunson was a beast on the boards (what else is new) and hauled in 11 rebounds to go along with six points. Lindsay Whalen contributed nicely with 10 points and three assists, while Renee Montgomery was a nice spark off the bench, scoring six points on 3-for-5 shooting and dishing out two dimes.
“They are a great team, and they have proven they are a great team all year long,” Moore said. “So it means a lot to beat a team like that on the road twice. I don’t think either team played as well as we could have 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.”
Coming into the matchup, the Lynx knew that in order to have a chance at winning, they needed to slow down LA’s ‘big three:’ Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver. Minnesota did an outstanding job controlling those three playmakers all game and forced them to shoot 14-for-35 (40 percent) from the floor.
Chelsea Gray tossed in a career-high 20 points off the bench for the Sparks and notched a team-high plus 14 plus/minus rating.
“Today was a tough fight, Minnesota always comes to play,” Ogwumike said. “They have a really great squad. Chelsea came in and really changed the game for us. We were able to make some plays and at the end there were some silly fouls that we could have strayed away from.”
13: Los Angeles came into the matchup averaging a league-best 21 assists per game. Thanks to some stifling defense on the perimeter and physical play in the paint, the Sparks had difficulty all game moving the ball and only tallied this many assists.
“This is a very experienced team, we have gone through so much together and we have been in similar situations where things are tough,” Moore said. “In those moments we just have to pick each other up and get them out of those difficult spots and stay steady through the highs and lows; and eventually things will go in our favor if we keep going and tonight was an example of that.”
8.2: Speaking of intense, non-stop, up in your face defense, LA was only able to score 50 points through three quarters in Tuesday night’s game. Averaging 84 points per game on the season, Minnesota limited Los Angeles’ open 3-point attempts and were able to shoot this many percentage points better than the Sparks did from the field.
“Give LA credit for playing good defense and not allowing us to do what we wanted to do,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “But that is expected in a game like this when two powerhouses go at it at this point of the season when they have seen each other twice and been scouted and game-planned for.”
29: With four games remaining on the season and sitting with a 25-5 record, Minnesota has the opportunity to tie the most wins in a season, set by the Phoenix Mercury in 2014 with this many wins in a regular season.
“Its important, but I try not to think about it too much because I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Fowles said of going for the best season record. “Thinking about that can stress me out and put pressure on us that is unnecessary. So I just try to keep it one game at a time but I like the pace we are at right now as a team.”