Upon arrival to the LA Convention Center, the media liaison told me that we were in for a special night as the Los Angeles Sparks would be doing a special celebrations all evening for their double-snubbed star, Nneka Ogwumike, for her appearance in Space Jam 2.
Good for the local Sparks faithful in attendance because those would be the most exciting parts of the game for them.
Packed house in LA was ROCKIN here on a Sunday night to close out the Sparks in the LA Convention Center.— YoLeo (@Y0Leo) July 12, 2021
Dance crews were in the building.
Wanda Sykes was in the building.
Disney heroes were in the building.
The Sparks, unfortunately, were not in the building.#CantTameUs
The Minnesota Lynx were coming off a league-high 6 game winning streak meanwhile the Sparks were coming off a league-worst 5 game losing streak. No matter their current records or streaks, there’s always a palpable buzz in the building anytime these 2 teams face-off. Let’s not forget what happened the last time these 2 teams faced off in Minnesota.
The entertainment for my first in-person WNBA/NBA coverage was lit. The packed house was giving the Sparks a great boost all night long. However it would take a lot more than a raucous home crowd for Los Angeles to stand a chance. To be honest, the game was not really competitive at any point outside of a 3rd quarter run where the Sparks were able to get the game as close as 6 early in the 3rd quarter. What you saw all night was the Lynx punishing the Sparks in the paint (Lynx won the PIP battle 44-30) while also peppering them with timely three pointers (Lynx won the 3pt battle 9/19 to 4/15).
Lynx have been playing offense like a prize fighter. Tenderize the body (paint) early, then going for KO punches as they're open (3s)#CantTameUs— YoLeo (@Y0Leo) July 12, 2021
That being said, you can’t say that the Sparks laid down. They played their typical brand of physical defense and there were bodies that hit the floor on both sides. Zahui B got heated after taking a few shots. Dantas took a shot down low as well. At the end of the day, we saw 3 technical fouls given out (2 for LA, 1 for MIN) and a couple borderline flagrant fouls.
Now let’s talk a little bit about Napheesa Collier.
Napheesa Collier, with a smile, on what worked for her in the post tonight:— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 12, 2021
"Apparently I was really strong tonight. A lot of people were falling down."
Phee has had enough of your flopping
(Q from @dblfluidity)
Napheesa Collier on her 'I'm strong' quote during the game tonight:— Dani Bar-Lavi (@dblfluidity) July 12, 2021
"I was honestly being sarcastic. Every time I touched someone they fell down, so, I guess I was extra strong today. I must have been eating my protein." #CantTameUs
Phee tied her career-high of 27 points tonight and nearly doubled up the next closest scorer tonight (Clarendon, Sykes, and Wheeler all scored 14). Her play was, in her words, “super strong.” She was bullying any poor defenders in her way, especially in the post. Her development as a leader both with her play on the court and her voice on the team has been one of the best parts of this season. She’s about to have a busy all-star/Olympic break ahead, but we’ll surely be tracking her progress this next month.
Since the game was so one-sided, there’s not too much more I can really get into. Instead, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite observations from my view in media row:
- Wanda Sykes was getting the crowd fired up in the 2nd half as she participated in a little dance routine. I took like 2 minutes to scour Google if she was related to the Sparks Brittney Sykes, but I didn’t find anything.
- There was a troupe of TikTok dancers (I think) who kept the energy high all night. They were featured on stage and courtside throughout the game and as a below average dancer, I was super impressed with what some of these kids could do. I’m glad that there was a diverse group of dancers as opposed to the more well-known culture appropriators that have gone viral.
- Okay hear me out. I think if Bugs and Lola Bunny suited up for the Sparks instead tonight, things might’ve been more interesting in more than one way.
- There were a few Lynx fans in attendance tonight! I was happy to see some Minnesota jerseys here in LA. I guess that’s what happens when you have a successful organization.
- Lastly, I wanted to give praise to the fans in attendance. Even though the majority were Sparks fans, the vibe that I got from the only WNBA game that I’ve attended thus far was 5x better than almost all of the NBA games I’ve attended. I hope you get a chance to (safely) check out a local WNBA game if you have a chance! I’ll certainly be back even if it isn’t for a Lynx game.
- Sylvia Fowles continues her redemption season. She posted a cool 10 points and 7 reboudns in just 26 minutes, but she really controlled the defensive end of the court. Big Syl’s presence was the main reason why the Sparks shot just 36.7% from the field.
- Quick shoutout to Layshia Clarendon (14/3/8) and Bridget Carleton (10/2) as other solid contributors tonight, although you could really go up and down the roster and find positive things to say about any player. It was yet another total team effort.
- Despite Los Angeles being out both Nneka & Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Tolliver, the product of the court is really not good. You can say their brand of basketball is to turn up the pressure on defense while grinding out slow half court offense, but there really is not much to like out there. I’ve banged this drum for some time for LA’s sake, but I’m surprised Head Coach Derek Fisher still has a job. He’s largely failed to get the most out of the talent on the roster in LA, but I feel like he’s also failed to make adjustments when things get tough as well.
- There was a really sad point in the 4th quarter where the Sparks forced perhaps 3-4 live ball turnovers and completely smoked the ensuing transition layup opportunities, often times with 3 defenders in the way. The crowd deflated in a way that most Timberwolves fans can relate. I was smiling like the Grinch underneath my mask in media row.
We’ve finally arrived to the Olympic break! With 19 games in the books, there’s just 13 remaining. The non-Olympic bound Lynx will have exactly 5 weeks off and return home against the New York Liberty on August 15th.
In the meantime, Canis Hoopus will be here to bring you news and updates on the women’s Olympic basketball games as pertinent to the Lynx roster. Aside from Team USA, Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa will be representing Team Canada in the 2020 games (Dantas would’ve likely represented for Team Brazil had they qualified). See you then and never forget: