Only 48 hours after the Minnesota Lynx most disappointing performance of the season, the team rallied to play a fantastic basketball game against the LA Sparks. Thursday’s contest was entirely different from what took place on Tuesday in both the play on court and the atmosphere in the arena.
Sylvia Fowles returned to her typical dominant self scoring 27 points, snatching nine rebounds and dishing a career high seven assists. Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike lead the way for the Sparks scoring 37 of the team’s 72 points.
Having competed against each other in long, five game series in each of the last two WNBA Finals, sparks and fur always fly any time these teams match up. Their rivalry even spills over into the regular season making early July feel like late September. It doesn’t matter where the game takes place or what the context is, Lynx/Sparks is an unfailingly intense and emotional experience.
“There’s a lot of drama when we matchup.” Maya Moore said, “Its been really great for the game. Both teams are really talented, every game is entertaining. No team is safe every time we play. So it creates an intense atmosphere.”
This one was particularly physical. Los Angeles collapsed the paint on Fowles early and often. She did a good job going up and through contact, making 10 of her 11 shots, and going to the line for eight free throws. However, in general, the referees were “letting them play” which left players and coaches on both teams feeling aggrieved. The intensity on the court built throughout the game and came to a head when Cheryl Reeve picked up two technical fouls and was ejected at the seven minute mark of the fourth quarter. Her removal pushed the home crowd up yet another level and the Lynx kept their foot on the gas, never allowing the Sparks to claw back into the game.
Minnesota’s offense was efficient and crisp. They had 23 assists on 29 made baskets and shot 51% overall. Their biggest boost came from downtown as the Lynx used an inside-out approach to getting open threes. Whether it was a Fowles post up or a Danielle Robinson drive, the ball found shooters and the team made 8 of 13 attempts. Other than Moore and Tanisha Wright, the entire team shot a good percentage.
Contrast this with LA and you see a different story. Parker and Ogwumike shouldered the majority of the scoring load while the rest of the Sparks struggled to score efficiently. Chelsea Gray is one of the deadliest shooters in the WNBA and she was held to 3-11 from the field and only ten points. In order to compete with the best teams in the league, Los Angeles needs to get more scoring help for their All Star front court.
Brunson Breakin’ Records
After grabbing her 3,318th career rebound, Minnesota Lynx legend Rebekkah Brunson became the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder. Her 12 rebounds in this game pushed her from third to first in the history of the league, passing Lisa Leslie and then Tamika Catchings.
“There’s nobody who works harder than Rebekkah Brunson.” Reeve said. “She’s relentless at whatever she wants to be good at…She smelled an opportunity to achieve this goal in front of her fans. I think that was very meaningful to her…I don’t care if she played 40 minutes today, (I thought) we’re gonna win this game and she’s going to get the rebounding title.”
15 points, 12 rebounds and three threes is just another solid double-double game for Brunson. She’s been indispensable all season. Her game shows no signs of slowing down, unlike most of her other extremely veteran contemporaries. The team still has a lot riding on the 36 year old, but with her consistency and dedication to winning, it works.
This game was the perfect antidote to Tuesday’s letdown. There is a confidence that comes with defeating a great team like the Los Angeles Sparks, and Minnesota will need it. The second half of the Lynx season will afford the team little room for error.
-Danielle Robinson is 0-38 in her WNBA career from three. She finally made a shot from behind the arc, only to have it rescinded after she stepped on the sideline prior to launching the shot. Lynx fans are going to go insane once she makes one for real. Hopefully it happens at Target Center.
-Fowles’ turnover problem has continued to be an issue for the team. She had another six on Thursday. Four of them as offensive fouls. She leads the WNBA in total turnovers with 60.
-With the win the Lynx are now behind in the season series with LA 2-1. If they win their last regular season matchup and tie it up, the next criteria for a potential playoff seed tiebreaker is record against teams .500 or better.
After playing four of their last five games at home, the Lynx will take it on the road and play in Chicago on Saturday night. The game tips at 7:30pm CT. You can watch on WNBA League Pass and listen on BOB 106 FM.