Any game in which you find yourself down 30-8 after eight minutes of play, you’re going to have a tough time climbing out of that hole.
That’s exactly the unfortunate predicament the Minnesota Lynx found themselves in on Friday night. With the series all tied up 1-1, Los Angeles came out on fire in Game 3 and it was simply too much for the defending WNBA Champions to handle.
The League’s Most Valuable Player Nneka Ogwumike and walking Hall-of-Famer Candace Parker are both seeking their first WNBA Title and they played like that on Friday evening. The two ultra-talented forwards combined on the night for 45 points on 19-for-33 shooting, 18 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
“I thought they responded well,” Sparks’ head coach Brian Agler said of the night’s two stars. “We’ve seen that all year long. On a couple occasions, maybe not so much, but they’ve been really consistent that way and really proud of how they went at it. So that’s one game, and we’ll get ready for the next one.”
Los Angeles’ starters accounted for all but 10 points in the victory. Guard Essence Carson went 4-for-4 from beyond-the-arc and finished the game with 16 points, while Alana Beard turned in a great overall game and tallied 15 points and seven dimes.
“I’m impressed with how Essence and Alana are working hard to just stay in plays with their good players,” Agler said. “It’s not easy. They run good offense. They get good shots. They’re Olympians, you know? It’s a challenge, and then for them to really give it all defensively and still find ways to help us at the offensive end is huge.”
After a very slow start, and despite a nice comeback attempt that got Minnesota within eight points, the effort put forth by the Lynx’ frontcourt wasn’t enough. WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Sylvia Fowles and 4-time Champion Rebekkah Brunson combined in Game 3 for 28 points on 13-for-21 shooting, eight boards, four assists, three steals and six blocks.
“I don’t think there’s much to explain other than what you saw,” Maya Moore said regarding the first 10 minutes of the game. “You know, when you have such a long, aggressive, athletic team as LA, we have to be able to respond and anticipate ways to get out of their pressure because they converted those turnovers into fast break points, transition, easy points, where we can’t even give our defense a chance to stop them.”
20: After being the ones that were bullied in Game 2, it was LA that came out as the aggressor in the third matchup as they scored 52 points in the paint, this many more points than Minnesota did in the painted area.
“Just a lot of bodies,” Fowles said of what it was like in the paint. “I won’t say it was a big difference, but a lot of good effort from LA posting guards, just crashing the boards more often and frequent, and that was something different from last night into tonight.”
16: Creating havoc for the Lynx from the tip-off, the Sparks were able to turn the Lynx over 13 times and score 24 points off of Minnesota’s mishaps, this many more ‘points off turnovers’ than Minnesota tallied.
“They cashed — it felt like we had 30 turnovers for 60 points is what it felt like, with just 13 for 24 they cashed it on every one of them,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When we needed good offense, we couldn’t get it done. It’s absolutely all on the want-to of Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker to start the game, and then Carson and Beard throughout the game. Their want-to was on 10, which is exactly where you would expect it to be. I’m not sure what we were expecting when we started the game, but it wasn’t that.”
6: Known for their tenacity on the boards, Minnesota was out-rebounded 29-24 by LA on Friday night and by this many when it came to offensive rebounds.
“Wow… Rebounding,” Carson said on what the Sparks needed to take away from the Lynx heading into Game 3. “If you want to talk kind of — I guess you want to classify that as X’s and O’s, but also, on the other side, intangibles, handling ourselves, how do we come out in games, how aggressive are we, what kind of mindset and mentality do we have to establish throughout the game. But definitely we had to take care of rebounding, keep them off the boards. They’re a great rebounding team.”
7: Only knocking down three 3-pointers in each of the first two Finals games, the Sparks were able to hit this many of their 15 attempts on Friday night.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Parker on playing a Finals game in front of their home fans. “We’ve said that this whole year, and it felt great to get out and to play. You know, I’m proud of our team and our mentality. Like E (Carson) was talking about, just our mentality of we’re going to play hard, we’re going to play our game, and then we’re going to live with the results. You know, I love the support that LA had for us tonight.”
Quotable: Coach Reeve on why the Lynx performed the way that they did…
I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. As I expressed to them before the game, what I thought the game was going to be, boy, was I wrong. I didn’t see it coming. I’ll be honest with you. Give all the credit to LA because I don’t know — at any point in time did we think it was going to be different than what they did in terms of their aggression, and their persistency. We talked a lot about that; they’re going to be persistent in what they were trying to get. They won the persistency battle. We didn’t rise to the occasion. You know, we were soft. We were feeble, and didn’t rise to the occasion. Did I see that coming? No, absolutely not. It was disappointing to say the least.