Sunday was brutal for the team. They had uncharacteristic turnovers and struggled to get anything going offensively while playing a much different team than they faced in the previous round. Then, Alana Beard hit the game-winning shot as time expired leaving the players and fans stunned at Target Center.
The Sparks defense stymied the Lynx and the refs didn’t help either. 42 combined fouls were called in the game, something similar to what we saw throughout semifinals against Phoenix. They weren’t letting these heavyweights play and I was hoping to see something different here in Game 2.
The fouls were down and the flow was up for the Lynx in this one, as they got their way most of the game. After a close game for about a quarter and a half, they took off at the end of the second quarter on a 17-3 run. They were able to use that cushion and other runs in the second half to win the game, 79-60, and even this series up.
In Game 1, Maya Moore was held scoreless in the first half. They were keyed in on her defensively and she ended up forcing things even in the second half where she scored 18 points. She didn’t look like your classic Maya and that slow start really hurt the team as the other players needed to pick up the slack and the bench was nowhere to be seen.
With that type of game, you just knew that she wouldn’t let that happen again, and she didn’t. She was back to herself, hitting off balance midrange jumpers, forcing turnovers on defense and her energy permeated to the rest of the team.
While Maya was stellar, my imaginary game ball goes to Sylvia Fowles. They were doubling her from the get go and she had to overcome physical defense the entire game and she thrived. “I guess maybe now I know how Shaq felt in the NBA because she hung in there through what I thought was a really, really, really physical game for her. But I told her that's what it's about. You can't expect a call,” Cheryl Reeve said after the game.
She let it get to her in the second quarter though. Fowles was called for a Flagrant 1 foul when she elbowed Nneka Ogwumike when posting up. It was a questionable call but it could have gone either way. Maybe that’s just what the team needed as that’s when their massive run started.
The most impressive thing about Big Syl tonight was her passing. Since she was constantly double-teamed, she had to find her open teammates and she did. She led the team in assists with four to go along with her 13 points and 15 rebounds. Five of those came on the offensive end where the Lynx dominated.
The team won the second chance point battle 17-7 and out-rebounded the Sparks 46-32. Rebounding is one of the team’s strengths, even though it didn’t help them in Game 1, but it’s nice to see it pay off for them in this one.
It wasn’t a cake walk though, as the Sparks came roaring back early in the third quarter. After being down 17, they kicked off a 14-0 run with layup after layup with some threes peppered in. The crowd was still in it but you could sense the tension building.
“I've got no floor balance, there's lay-ups, lay-ups, lay-ups, and they've got a flow, and next thing you know, it was a one-possession game. And so we started a fire that we had to quickly douse, and our defense is what got it done. Our rebounding got it done, and then obviously kind of closing it out,” Reeve said about the Sparks comeback.
The Lynx just stuck with it. They ended each of the first three quarters on sizable runs that allowed them to keep momentum through the game. The ended the first 12-4, the second 17-3 and the third on a 10-5 run. Anytime the Sparks tried to get back in it, Minnesota said no.
Seimone Augustus had a great bounce back game as she had 14 points, seven of those in the fourth, and was visibly amped up after some of her buckets. Moore was asked after the game how and if she knows when Augustus is going to go off. “Those dreads get to popping, nostrils get to flaring. I mean, my nostrils flare, too. We're both nostril-flaring kind of players. Just that look in her eye,” Maya joked.
Moore ended with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Rebekkah Brunson had 10 points and eight rebounds. Jia Perkins chipped in another six points just like Game 1, and she had key makes when the game was close at different moments.
With the series tied, the teams will head to LA for Game 3 on Friday.