After winning the ‘Battle of the Unbeatens' Tuesday, the team came home to prepare for... a rematch with the L.A. Sparks. The second game was just as hyped as the first one, as the Lynx were still undefeated and were hoping to continue breaking their record for best start to a WNBA season.
In fact, they needed to open the upper deck at Target Center to accommodate the demand for tickets. Over 13,000 fans showed up and I don't think any other team in the league can match the fandom here in Minnesota. It was ‘Wild West Night' and it sure was wild.
One question on all fans' minds before the game was if Maya Moore would play tonight. She left the last game early in the fourth with a left-thigh injury. Cheryl Reeve assured the media that she expected Moore to start. "I'm a big believer in if a player is available, if it's their job to start, they will start," Reeve said before the game.
She did indeed start and you wondered what her effectiveness would be like. No one really knew the extent of the injury, other than Moore, and you hoped she would contribute.
In the end, she ended up being the only Lynx player who made a major impact. She had 28 points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals. It was not enough. The Lynx suffered their first loss of the season, 94-76.
The score looks bad but it doesn't tell the true story of the game. The Lynx had it within three late, as they were down 73-70 with 4:39 left in the game. The Sparks proceeded to go on a 21-6 run to end it, as Minnesota went cold shooting the ball. LA only missed one shot during that final stretch and Candace Parker immediately tipped that one in.
It was a game of runs and the Sparks were the team getting them at the right time. They ended the first quarter on a 13-5 streak to take a three-point lead. They ended the second quarter on an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead. They finished the game scorching hot as I mentioned earlier.
Moore kept them in it until those last five minutes. One minute into the third, she channeled her inner NBA Jam and was on fire, nailing three straight three-pointers.
Unfortunately, the Sparks answered each one with three-pointers of their own; the first by Parker and the next two by Kristi Toliver. It was a crazy stretch as the teams scored 18 points in less than two minutes.
The Lynx missed free throws at the worst times. They shot 66.7 percent from the stripe when that is usually one of their strengths. Free throw misses by the Sparks can be attributed as the reason they lost on Tuesday and they only missed two tonight. It wasn't the only reason Minnesota lost tonight, as Toliver was hot again scoring 25 points with seven threes.
Another big difference this game was Nneka Ogwumike. She scored only nine points in the first match up. She tallied 20 points tonight on 9-15 shooting. The streak had to come to an end at some point and there is no shame in losing to this team. The Lynx and Sparks are the class of the WNBA right now.
The Minnesota players knew this game would be tough and L.A. looked as if they wanted this more. That's not entirely unexpected as they lost the first game on the last possession. "I think the bounce in their step was greater than ours. They come in with their back against the wall on the road and we didn't do enough to make sure the momentum stayed in our favor longer," Moore commented after the game.
The Sparks had 10 steals and 24 points off turnovers. Their defensive intensity stifled the entire Lynx roster except Moore. "I thought they played with that chip on their shoulder and determination. Perhaps we had a bit of a hangover," Reeve said after the game.
The Lynx just weren't able to play their game. They can't be perfect every time and this L.A. team will make you pay if you're not near perfect. "We'll look at the tape and see what we need to correct. Give them credit, they had a road win here in a tough environment," Lindsay Whalen said in the locker room after the game. "Tonight, we just got beat by a great team," she added.
Jia Perkins had 13 points off the bench. Sylvia Fowles had seven points and 11 rebounds. Moore hit five three-pointers in the third quarter to match her own record for threes in a quarter that she shares with Diana Taurasi.
Those were the positives for the Lynx and there weren't many for this game. This loss will allow them to refocus and will probably only make them hungrier for more wins. I'll admit the players and especially Reeve would scoff at that, as they always want to win.
The tone of the locker room after the game felt like they wanted to get revenge right away, as the Sparks got that chance after Tuesday. They won't match up again until September 6th, so the Lynx will have plenty of time to adjust to what L.A. did tonight.
Next up, Minnesota takes on the Washington Mystics away from home on Sunday. Here's to starting a new streak.
I'll leave you with Maya's 6th and final three of the game: