WNBA Playoffs: Sparks hit back, force Game 3 versus Lynx


It shouldn’t take your playoff life being on the line, but maybe the situation at hand jolted something in the Los Angeles Sparks — no pun intended — as they entered Game 2 of their first-round series against the Minnesota Lynx down 0-1. Or maybe it was having the home crowd behind them, as the whooping and hollering exaggerated the impact of normal plays and made them great. Whatever it is it worked, as the Sparks live to fight another day, defeating the Lynx 81-71 to force a series-deciding Game 3.

After an even first quarter, Candace Parker and company cut it in high gear in the second, outscoring the Lynx 29-12 to take a 53-35 lead going into the half. Not relying on isolation basketball against an impressive half court defense by the Lynx, ball movement, aggressive play (forcing foul trouble onto the Lynx early) and defense led to easy scoring opportunities for the bunch. But nothing was more impressive than Parker’s dominance, as she hijacked the superstar hat from Maya Moore and planted it on herself, scoring 15 of her 25 points in the second quarter, and in the process, opened the floor for teammates to better operate — of the six Sparks players to play at least 10 minutes in the first half, all scored at least four points.

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  • In the second half, things slowed down for the Sparks, creating a window of opportunity for a comeback that wouldn’t surprise many. Despite the lazy narrative of the Sparks taking their foot “off the gas pedal”, its shooters came back down to earth — as a whole the Sparks would shoot 22% from the field; in the first half, LA shot 55% from the field.

    Going into Game 3, the final game of the series (reminder to NBA fans: Round 1 in the WNBA is Best of 3, and every series after is Best of 5).

    In the final quarter of the game, Minnesota would shrink Los Angeles’ lead to four points, but back-to-back three-pointers from Candace Parker and Ana Davic would push the deficit back to ten points with 7:34 left on the clock. The back and forth would continue throughout the quarter, but Minnesota would once again clear the deficit to five with a little over three minutes left in the game; unfortunately, the group couldn’t get out of its own way as the Lynx would commit four consecutive turnovers, fumbling away any chance of completing an improbable Game 2 comeback.

    While Parker’s box score grabs the majority of attention (25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) — and rightly so — it was Ana Dabovic’s 19 points (outscored Minnesota’s bench 19-6), 12 in the second half, that proved to be the x-factor for Los Angeles. Alana Beard and Jantel Lavender would also contribute double-digit scoring efforts — starting forward Nneka Ogwumike left the game mid-third quarter with injury and did not return.

    For Minnesota, the bunch was once again led by Maya Moore, who finished with 27 points on 52% shooting, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals, and Seimone Augustus’ 14 points. And opposite of their Game 1 efforts, starters Lindsey Whalen and Sylvia Fowles chipped in 10 points apiece.

    With Game 3 on the horizon, it’s hard to predict how things will play out if using the first two games (and even the the final three regular season matchups between the teams). What the first two games did show is whichever superstar is at their best, will help their team the most. Ideally, Los Angeles would approach the game with the same philosophy shown in the first two quarters of Game 2: attack Minnesota’s frontcourt (Moore, Fowles, Brunson) and force a non-existent bench to make an impact. If the Sparks can pull that off, the odds will increase in their favor.

    Game 3 of Lynx-Sparks takes place Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST, and will show on ESPN 2; winner advances to the Western Conference finals where the defending championship Phenix Mercury await.