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Lynx 96, Sparks 78: Lights Out Lakeville

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Banham’s perfect night helps Minnesota improve to 11-5.

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Deja Vu struck the Lynx early. Just one night prior Minnesota lost to the Phoenix Mercury partially because of a terrible first quarter that they ultimately could never recover from. Something similar seemed to be brewing after one quarter vs Los Angeles on Monday night. The Sparks were getting easy shots in transition, penetrating into the lane and earning free throws. Minnesota was determined to not repeat the mistakes they made 24 hours prior.

“We came out a little bit slow against Phoenix yesterday and we knew that we didn’t want to start that way again,” Lynx forward Napheesa Collier said postgame. “We felt ourselves getting into that when we got down we kinda just flipped a switch and pulled it off. It was fun.”

For the rest of the game Minnesota forced LA to setup their half court offense and take lower quality shots. The Lynx defense settled down and was able to keep Sparks players in front of them while their weak side rotations sealed off the paint to Sparks driving threats. Despite being down by as much as 11 in the second quarter, Minnesota closed the half on a 27-7 run. This included a Rachel Banham three as time expired to give the Lynx a nine point lead at the break.

Banham had her best game in a Lynx uniform and one of the finest of her career as well. She scored 18 points on a perfect 6-6 from the field including four threes. Banham is a pure shot maker. Games like this show you why she’s a nice WNBA depth piece that has stuck around the league for five seasons. The Lakeville, Minnesota product wasn’t the only Lynx player who lit it up from distance Monday night. The team made a season high 14 threes in only 27 attempts. Damiris Dantas and Crystal Dangerfield also added three 3-pointers themselves as Minnesota successfully stretched out the Sparks defense. The long-range rain kept Los Angeles from making any sort of run at the Lynx in the second half.

Collier was the benefactor of the space created by Minnesota’s sharpshooters. She rolled to the basket, slipped screens, found mismatches and crashed the offensive glass to great effect. You know, a normal Collier game. It’s impressive how she doesn’t just play one type of way the entire game. She made adjustments throughout the contest to put herself and her teammates in a more advantageous position. Also she guarded Candace Parker and held her to eight points. No big deal. Collier finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Anytime you can blowout your chief rivals while on the second half of a back to back and tie up the season series, it’s a good time. The Lynx were crushed by LA back on August 9th. They got some sweet payback on Monday and improve their odds of winning a tiebreaker against the Sparks in what could be a photo finish in the upper third of the WNBA standings. Winning percentage against teams above .500 will determine seeding if the head to head matchup is tied. With 12 days and six games remaining, every win counts.

Notes

Nneka Ogwumike missed the game with a back injury.

Odyssey Sims was added to the starting lineup replacing Lexie Brown. This move doesn’t need much explanation. Sims has been playing better recently. Brown didn’t do enough in the seasons’ first 15 games to earn the starting spot permanently. She’s still a young player who struggled with maturity issues last season. It will be interesting to watch how she handles this and if she can’t play herself out of the rut she’s currently in.

Minnesota’s offense was really singing in the final three quarters. They had 30 assists on 37 made baskets. A coach’s dream.

Damiris Dantas was fantastic again. She had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Her high-low passing with Collier was key in taking advantage of Los Angeles’ lack of size inside.

Chelsea Gray had a nice game for the Sparks. She scored 18 points and also had five assists and four rebounds.

Bridget Carleton had ten assists and 0 points. How often do you see that line?

Minnesota had a season low 7 turnovers. After toiling in the very bottom of the league standings in turnover percentage the Lynx are now a respectable 7th.

Next Up

The Lynx will try to sweep the season series against Chicago on Wednesday. The Sky also fancy themselves a top-4 team so winning the head to head matchup would be big for Minnesota. Tip off is 6pm.

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