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Minnesota Lynx Capitalize on Defense, Defeat Sparks 72-64

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After a disappointing loss to Los Angeles Tuesday, the Lynx came away with a win at home.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Lynx took home a much-needed win Sunday night, walking away with a 72-64 win over the Sparks. Maya Moore led Minnesota with 20 points, followed by Sylvia Fowles who added 15 points and nine rebounds. For Los Angeles, Nneka Ogwumike scored 18.

The Lynx suffered a Tuesday night loss in Los Angeles that snapped a three-game win streak over the Sparks. Sunday marked the fourth and final meeting for the two teams, and it was the third game between them in just 12 nights.

Minnesota made two major improvements from its last matchup with LA: (1) points in the paint and (2) defense. On Tuesday, the Sparks outscored the Lynx by 32 points in the paint. Sunday, the Lynx held LA to just 24 points there while tallying 46 of their own. Head coach Cheryl Reeve said the following after the game:

"Fifty-four points in the paint last time [for LA], so that was definitely a focal point [...]. Once we guarded their stuff, they moved the ball well, they're playing well. Coming off the road after a week, that first game back off the west coast is one you sometimes find yourself physically not up for, but that was not the case for us."

The Lynx also learned good defense is the only way to stop Los Angeles. After a fantastic first quarter defending the ball, that side slowed down drastically.

In the second quarter, LA went on a 7-0 run to close the gap to six, and Minnesota struggled to regain a large lead. The Lynx also recorded only five rebounds after 13 in the first. One of the largest factors proved to be Sparks forward Candace Parker. After holding Parker to a scoreless quarter, the Lynx allowed her to score eight points before the half.

"Our first quarter was really good and really set the tone for the way we wanted to play," Reeve said, before acknowledging several problems that cropped up after the first 10 minutes.

The coach said she addressed several "unacceptable" issues during halftime.

The third quarter looked a bit rocky as well, as head coach Cheryl Reeve was forced to sit Moore when she recorded her fourth foul only two minutes in. Moore missed a majority of the quarter, and the Sparks capitalized with a 6-0 run that closed the gap to three points. Minnesota also committed four turnovers in that time.

Heading into the fourth, the atmosphere at Target Center was intense. Fans were on their feet as LA made an offensive attack, at one point bringing the score to 59-58, Minnesota barely clinging to a lead. Moore being back on the floor helped, as did the Lynx's refocus defensively.

"I don't care how we shoot," Reeve told the team. "We need to find a way to win this game with our defense."

That's exactly what they did, thanks in large part to Fowles, who tallied six defensive rebounds on the evening and also scored six points in the final stretch. With Fowles being a recent addition to the lineup, it's nice to see her looking more comfortable and playing a larger role.

"It was just so important how she responded during that time," Reeve said. "At the end, showing some fortitude down there [...]. In that stretch, Sylvia was really important to us. It was good for her to feel thatto be counted on and to come through for us."

Reeve said the new roster is gelling more and more, and Seimone Augustus is nearing a point where she will be back on the floor. After a two tough losses this week, things should be looking up for the Lynx.

Sideline Notes

Breast Cancer Awareness
Sunday was Lynx' annual Breast Health Awareness game. Mayo Clinic sponsored the event, and all the players wore commemorative pink uniforms that they auctioned off to fans following the game. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Lynx Foundation, which supports breast cancer research and support programs throughout Minnesota.

The first 2,500 fans received pink bandanas. In addition, the team hosted an honor/memory wall in the Lynx Party Zone (below Section 121) for fans to write notes to family and friends affected by breast cancer.

FIBA World Championship
Prior to tip off, head coach Cheryl Reeve and players Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen were honored with their 2014 FIBA World Championship rings at center court. USA won the gold medal in Istanbul, Turkey with a 6-0 sweep, and Moore earned MVP honors for the tournament. By taking home the trophy, the USA team qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games

Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio and his parents were in attendance at Sunday's game. Rubio has attended a handful of Lynx games this season.

GIF of the Game