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Lynx 66, Sparks 57: Minnesota Powers Up

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An Aerial attack proves to be the difference in a defensive battle, as the Lynx win their 4th straight.

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

Minnesota basketball has been making headlines lately. No, I’m not talking about Brigadier BS. The Lynx got a pair of big updates prior to tip-off yesterday:

So one out, one back in. The next burning question is the health of the Lynx starting point guard, Layshia Clarendon. Our very own Jack Borman reported that it seemed unlikely that the Lynx would be utilizing a hardship exception since Clarendon’s injury doesn’t appear to be very long term.

The Canis Hoopus team will continue to keep you all apprised of any important updates as the Lynx near the playoffs. Make sure to follow @LynxDynasty and @JackBorman on Twitter if you’re not already doing so! Speaking of the former, although technically yesterday was his birthday, let’s all show Jack some love!

Game Story

With every yin, there’s a yang. As evidenced by the final score, this game was all about defense. Despite the defensive brilliance we saw from both teams out there, one could also say there was some putrid offense.

Chicken or the egg.

Coming into this game, there was a certain sense of déjà vu. In the last matchup, the Sparks were on a 5-game losing skid while the Lynx were conversely on a 6-game win streak prior to the Olympic break. The Lynx ended up blasting the Sparks by 25 points (Record in LA). Yesterday, Los Angeles entered on a 4-game skid (After choking a game away against the last place Indiana Fever) while Minnesota was gliding on a 3-game win streak.

The Sparks came out motivated this time.

Featuring their face of the franchise, Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles sprinted out to a small early lead which they held for nearly 3 quarters of play. It felt like every time the Lynx made a move to get close, the signature Sparks pressure defense would force Minnesota into bunches of turnovers. In fact, 7 of Lynx 10 first half turnovers came in the first 6 minutes of the game.

Things looked dire to start the second half, as the Lynx only mustered up 1 point in the first 3 minutes. The Sparks, meanwhile, marched out to their biggest lead of 9. A big reason for Minnesota’s offensive struggles was likely LA’s game plan to limit Napheesa Collier, who had previously scored a career-high 27 points against them in July. I’d say they were successful. Phee turned in a season-low 5 points on 1-7 shooting. They even coaxed her into a 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter.

Like I mentioned earlier though: What comes with every yin?

The offense of the Sparks/Lynx defense reared its head, keeping the hometown team within single digits. The offensive talents of Kayla McBride helped keep the Lynx afloat long enough until she was on the receiving end of a hard foul by Brittney Sykes.

Enter: Aerial Powers.

The foul on KMac, coupled with AP’s energy off the bench, helped spark a huge 11-2 Lynx run which helped them even things back up. Powers, in particular, was all over the court on both ends. Her brilliance could be summed up by this crucial segment:

The rickety wheels of the Sparks offense completed fell off after that. They never scored a single point again in the remaining 3:11 of action. All that was left was this:

Game Highlights

Game Notes

  • Aerial Powers was certainly the star of the game. As mentioned above, her presence and energy during the 2nd half proved to be question that the formidable Los Angeles defense had no answer for. This was her second straight impact game in a row and we’re just now getting a taste of what the Lynx signed up for this offseason. AP finished with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in just 18 minutes of play. Wait until her conditioning gets right.
  • After being ruled healthy just moments after warm-ups, I was closely watching Sylvia Fowles out there yesterday. How healthy was she? Teaira McCowan had just dominated LA with 15 pts (11 FTA) and a career-high tying 19 rebounds while putting Amanda Zahui B in foul trouble. Early on, it didn’t look promising as Fowles appeared hampered. There were a couple uncontested rebounds which she was unable to corral as they tumbled out of bounds. However, by game’s end?
  • Throughout the season, the Coach Reeve has had to piece together the defensive game plan based on whoever isn’t injured. The result has been nothing short of amazing lately. After holding the Liberty to 32.4% shooting on Tuesday, they outdid themselves by tightening the screws on the Sparks to the tune of 31.1% shooting. Unbelievable. It doesn’t sound as impressive when you consider they have the greatest center of all-time anchoring things during a career year, but still.
  • Bridget Carleton had yet another clutch 3-ball (drink!). In the 4th quarter, with LA puttering on fumes, she drilled a 56-56 tiebreaking trey to put the Lynx up for good. That was her lone basket the entire game and it came just after she had clanked a wide open 3. All she does is making winning plays.
  • The Sparks are now 10th in the standings. If they miss the playoffs, it would be their first time missing it in 10 years. How does Derek Fisher still have a job? Meanwhile, the Lynx recently clinched their 11th straight playoff berth. Hooray for competency greatness! The Lynx have now successfully swept the Sparks this season 3-0, marking the 1st time ever in their 23 year franchise history.

What’s Next

The Lynx will be wrapping up their 4-game home stand against the Washington Mystics on Saturday, 9/4 at 7:00pm CT (NBA TV).

Without their 2 former MVPs, Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, the Mystics were hammered in their last game by the Connecticut Sun, 75-85 (They were down 20 going into the 4th). Despite having 3 days to rest, it doesn’t appear that they will be back to help Washington claw for the 8th seed.

I’m still expecting the Mystics to come out guns blazing since they’re in full desperation mode. In their lone matchup against the Lynx, they were able to withstand a big Minnesota run late in the 4th quarter to win 85-81. Tina Charles led the way with 31 points back then, so it’ll be intriguing to see who steps up to the plate this time. This will be the 1st of 2 matchups that the Mystics and Lynx have against one another before wrapping up the season.