Web Editorial Associate
The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have each won a Finals game and will look to become that much closer to winning the 2016 WNBA Championship on Friday night.
These two talented squads will matchup in Los Angeles tonight at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN 2. Due to scheduling conflicts, the team will play at the Galen Center, an Arena operated by the University of Southern California.
After a one-sided contest in Game 2, with Minnesota winning by 19 points, the Sparks will be seeking redemption in Game 3 and will most definitely come out with an edge.
When analyzing the first two games of the series and what went right and/or wrong for both teams, here’s what to expect in Game 3 on Friday night.
Physical Play: Minnesota did a great job bringing the fight to LA in Game 2 and the score reflects it. The Lynx out-rebounded the Sparks by 14 and tallied 10 more points in the paint. Look for Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike to be smart defensively so they don’t get into foul trouble, and to also play with chips on their shoulders after their mediocre performances in their last outing.
“Obviously Minnesota is a very extremely experienced team,” Sparks guard Kristi Toliver said. “They have a lot of playoff experience, a lot of Finals experience, and they want four, and I think we know that as a team. But we want one. It’s going to continue to be a battle. It’s going to be highly competitive. I know we’re going to compete our asses off, and it’s going to be a fight.”
LA’s Shots to Drop: After an uncharacteristically bad night of shooting for the Sparks on Tuesday, look for Los Angeles to at least improve their shooting percentage from Game 2 (32.9) by 10 points. Toliver, Jantel Lavender and Parker were a combined 8-for-34 against Minnesota in their last contest. Unfortunately for the defending League Champions, that will not happen again. LA had quite a few open looks in Game 2 that just didn’t fall. If the numbers don’t lie, and they usually don’t, the Sparks will have more shots drop for them on Friday.
“We didn’t like how we played on Tuesday, we were a little disappointed on that,” Los Angeles’ head coach Brian Agler said. “I try to just focus on how you play. We didn’t play quite with the focus and the urgency that we did on Sunday. That being said, if someone would tell me, you’re going to go up there and split, would you take it? We would probably take it against a really good team like Minnesota is. But here and now, we’ve just been focusing on playing than we did on Tuesday, which means we have to defend. We have to move the ball on offense. We have to find ways to manufacture points.”
Another Low Scoring Game: One of the great things about having the two best defensive teams face one another in the Finals is that every point is that much more important/impressive. For those of you who enjoy a shootout, however, Game 3 will most likely not be a very fun matchup for you to watch. Neither team has surpassed the 80-point mark in four of their five games so far this season, so be prepared for that trend to continue on Friday evening.
“We know they are going to come in and jump on us from the start,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said regarding Friday night’s matchup. “We have to be able to stop their run and go own our run. That’s how it’s going to be the entire night. It’s going to be a heavyweight bout. If they throw a punch, we have to throw a punch right back. No matter what, we cannot give up on our defensive and offensives schemes.”
A Couple of Plays to Make or Break the Game: If I were a betting man, I would predict that Game 3 will look a lot more like Game 1, a 78-76 game ending on a buzzer-beater, than Game 2. With that being said, execution will be the name of the game for both teams on Friday night. A couple of big plays that are big momentum changers could very well lead one team to victory. Look for hustle stats and turnovers to be the x-factor in Game 3.
“It’s another game, we can right our wrongs,” Sparks’ guard Alana Beard said. “Obviously, no game is perfect and this is the playoffs and every possession counts, just going back and watching film, making adjustments. I think we’re pretty focused, and I don’t think we’ve lacked focus. We just didn’t do the things we wanted to do in Game 2.”
Maya Moore to Score: Yes, I know what you’re thinking… SHOCKER! But in all seriousness, the 2014 MVP has been nearly unstoppable for the past 60 minutes of this series. Moore scored a game-high 21 points in Game 2 and even hauled in 12 rebounds. One thing to keep your eye out for that may dictate how many points Moore tallies, is the performance of the other guards on the team. If Lindsay Whalen and Augustus are able to drive in order to get the defense to collapse, Moore will have success. The Lynx were able to muster 20 assists in Game 2 due to the fact that they did a great job of getting Los Angeles in unusual defensive positions based off of ball movement and penetration.
“We have to come as prepared as possible,” Moore said of Game 3. “We have to play with the highest amount of execution and energy that we can. It’s not complicated this time of the year. Both teams are going to make adjustments. We have to come out execute at a higher level than we did in Games 1 and 2.”