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Lynx 80, Sparks 64: Rivalry Renewed

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The Lynx heroes of yesteryear were honored while the next era of heroes & foes develop.

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Story

Prior to the start of the game, it was announced that both Seimone Augustus (current assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks) and Rebekkah Brunson (current assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx) would have their numbers retired here at Target Center.

Icons who personified Lynx basketball.

While it still feels weird to see Mone on the Los Angeles bench, it was awesome to hear that both of these legends would be receiving their flowers here in Minnesota as it should be. Mone came out to a standing ovation by the Lynx faithful in attendance.

Now, on to this evening’s festivities.

I was surprised to see a rather big starting line-up of Sylvia Fowles, Damiris Dantas, and Napheesa Collier to start the game against a relatively small Los Angeles Sparks line-up, but it turned out to be a good call by the reigning Coach of the Year, Cherl Reeve. Big Syl seemed to be fired up right the get-go, getting a block which led to a mid-range jumper, followed by a steal and fastbreak (!) layup. I’m certain that it’s just a matter of time until we see #34 in the Target Center rafters next to #33 and #32 as well. There were some early turnover problems (more much more on that later), but the Lynx were able to rely on their talent and size to build an early lead.

About 5 minutes into the game, we finally got to see Aerial Powers sub into the game. AP had missed the last 5 games due to a hamstring issue, but looked no worse for the wear early on (Knock on wood). She picked up right where she left off, getting to the free throw line early. Her aggressiveness and energy on both sides of the court was a welcome sight and she helped the Lynx build a 10-point lead in the 1st quarter. It also helped that Crystal Dangerfield would come into the game and make 3 of her first 3 treys as well.

The Lynx would continue to remain in control throughout the majority of the second period. We saw a lot of what we’ve been used to seeing. Bridget Carleton making brilliant, winning plays on both ends of the court. AP continuing to fire up both her team and the crowd with her palpable energy. Meanwhile for LA, Kristi Tolliver continued to be a thorn in the Lynx side as she seemingly has been since 2010. Most notably, they’d unleash their aggressive ball pressure that ushered more and more Lynx turnovers. Minnesota would be able to get into the locker room up 14 at the half, but that lead would be very short-lived.

Then came the 3rd quarter. Have you ever seen an organized grade school basketball game where one team is actually coached just to apply fullcourt pressure to the point where their uncoached opponent doesn’t even cross halfcourt? That’s pretty much what happened for 10 minutes, as the Lynx forgot how to break a simple fullcourt press or knew how to catch a basketball.

Just like that, it was a tie game heading into the final period.

Did Coach Reeve remind her team that the goal of the game required the basketball to not be handed to the other team? The Lynx would fumble the ball over in back-to-back possessions to open the quarter so apparently no... at first.

Enter: Rachel Banham.

Ray Ban would finally open things up for Minnesota by hitting 2 three-balls in a row. That would be a pressure release that seemed to extinguish the Sparks defensive attack. Without the defensive pressure that was so successful in the previous quarter, Los Angeles would turn to non-basketball strategies to try and turn the tide.

It’s so rare to see Phee get into a scuffle like this, but it was awesome to see her step up when tested. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Sparks were playing dirty, but they went from a team playing physical defense, to just a team playing physical. CD, also known as the Queen of the 4th, would unleash a 7-point flurry of her own to push Minnesota ahead by double-digits once again. Any final comeback attempts by LA would run into the brick wall that was Big Syl in the middle, as she would continue dominating both sides of the court once the game slowed down.

That would be all she wrote, as the home team would cruise to a 16-point victory. The crowd was first treated by honoring their history as the most successful WNBA franchise of all-time then end the game by witnessing the continuation of a decade long rivalry.

And it always just feels good to beat LA.

Full game highlights

Game Notes

  • Any type of a “bar fight” type game like this is due to generate some wild stat totals. For instance, the Lynx outrebounded the Sparks 43-27, but lost the turnover battle 22-12.
  • Meanwhile, the Lynx enjoyed a 41-2 bench advantage. To be fair, Los Angeles is so hampered with injuries that they didn’t have much of a bench anyway due to their injuries. Among the inactives were both Agwumike’s and to make matters worse, they also lost their starting point guard, Erica Wheeler, in the 3rd quarter due to a concussion. Despite the rivalry, we’re wishing Wheeler a speedy recovery.
  • Speaking of injuries, Minnesota also lost Natalie Achonwa in the 2nd quarter to a scary non-contact injury. Although she was able to walk to the locker room with some assistance, knee issues are never good. Hopefully this won’t be a long term issue, as the Lynx also announced Jess Shepard being out indefinitely due to a groin injury. We’re wishing both these athletes all the best and hopefully a successful rehab process.
  • Layshia Clarendon, who recently re-signed with the Lynx due to the loss of Shepard, got a quick hook today. She contributed just 16 minutes and was called out by Coach Reeve in the postgame for not being able to really handle the pressure.
  • Although I highlighted Aerial Powers’ contributions, she also had a 2nd half to forget. It might have probably had to do with the dislocated thumb she suffered, but it appears she’ll be okay in the long run. Hopefully she’ll remain healthy enough to get her conditioning back as well.
  • Rachel Banham obviously gets the game ball tonight. Her shooting has been on another level recently, draining 9 of her last 11 three pointers and .733 FG%. Just when many of us were questioning her place on the rotation, she comes up big when the Lynx needed it the most.
  • Sylvia Fowles had herself a pedestrian 4 block, 5 steal (career high) night in just 27 minutes. You know, just another night at the office as the steals leader in the league. Let us not forget how blessed we are to be able to watch greatness every time she dons a Lynx jersey. Mama Syl is making a legit case for a Defensive Player of the Year award at the spry age of 35.

What’s Next

The visiting Chicago Sky will be in town on Tuesday, June 15th @ 8:00 pm CT. The Sky, who struggled mightily to start the season primarily due to injuries/other commitments, are on a 2-game winning streak with Candace Parker back in the lineup. Although both wins came against the league-worst Indiana Fever, Chicago is certainly a threatening team when healthy.