The idea of a “statement game” can be an overused and cliche sports term, but what transpired before a sold-out Staples Center crowd on Sunday night was exactly that - a statement. The 78-67 Los Angeles Sparks win was a much more lopsided affair than the final score indicates and solidifies their standing as the best team in the WNBA right now.
The Lynx and Sparks have been number one and two respectively in net rating (difference in team points score and allowed per 100 possessions) all season long. In this game, the Sparks were the better team on both ends of the court, but their defensive performance is how they were able to dominate the Lynx. Los Angeles forced 18 Minnesota turnovers which they turned into 24 points. Defensive player of the year hopeful Alana Beard and her teammate Chelsea Gray mucked up the Lynx offense all night. They combined for six of LA’s 11 steals and allowed the Sparks to attack in transition and pick up easy fast break points. Sylvia Fowles was the only Lynx player who managed to score consistently. The Sparks simply took everything else away. Their starting five doesn’t have a minus defender, when they commit to stopping their opponent, they’re a scary squad.
Maya Moore had a nightmare of a game. She’s had a slightly down year by her incredibly high standards, but has typically found other ways to fill up the stat sheet and help her team win. Sunday night was something totally different. Part of her struggles were directly related to the aforementioned menaces the Sparks employ at the wing positions, but Moore also seemed to have timing and flow issues, dropping passes and taking bad shots. Moore was fantastic Friday night in San Antonio. The difference between playing the worst and best teams in the league were evident.
Theres no shame in losing to the Los Angeles Sparks. They’ve been the second best team in the WNBA all summer and are currently playing their best basketball of the season. However, exactly how the Lynx lost this game is down right disconcerting. The passion, energy and joy the Minnesota Lynx typically play with was nowhere to be found. Their offense played like they hadn’t faced a competent defense all year, and the Lynx interior defense was a complete disaster, giving up 46 paint points to the Sparks. The most obvious indicator of how off the Lynx were on Sunday night was the fact that Minnesota had not one, but two turnovers on inbound passes immediately following Sparks baskets. Los Angeles had an advantage in many aspects of the game but none more surprising then in mentality.
The Lynx now find themselves in an extremely undesirable position. They’ll likely need to win all three of their remaining regular season games in order to hang onto the number one overall seed. More importantly they’re about to enter the playoffs searching for answers rather than playing high-level basketball.
Rebekkah Brunson returned to the starting lineup and looked solid in 19 minutes of play. It’s nice that she’ll have four games to get back in the swing of things before the playoffs begin.
The game was a Staples Center sellout at 19,282 was the highest attended regular season WNBA game since 2008.
Candace Parker was incredible scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 rebounds and dropping three dimes. She picked apart the Lynx defense all night.
Alexis Jones played a season high 21 minutes. She seemed to be unbothered by the pressure of the situation and gave the Lynx good minutes off the bench.
Fowles again wore the protective face mask she donned on Friday, but eventually got rid of the mask half way through the second quarter. I think the mask era is over.
Minnesota’s three game road trip concludes Wednesday in Indiana. Tip off is at 6 pm CT and you can watch for free on Twitter.com