There weren’t a lot of dry eyes in the arena to start the game tonight. Seimone Augustus had her jersey retirement ceremony before the tip today which featured a touching tribute video, followed by Mone sharing some words for her former teammates and coaches, and the fans. Lynx figureheads such as Lindsay Whalen, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, and Jim Peterson were among the many in attendance. Number 33 was eventually unveiled in the rafters as a packed Target Center went wild.
Unfortunately, the crowd’s tears of happiness were quickly turned into tears of sadness as the Lynx opened the first half as cold as a Augustus crossover.
Both teams opened the game with unusual starting lineups, as the visiting Los Angeles Sparks were without starting point guard, Jordin Canada, giving Chennedy Carter the start. Meanwhile, Coach Reeve opted to start rookie Evina Westbrook over Aerial Powers for some reason and despite playing just 15 minutes, she made a number of contributions late in the game. Early game though, it was a Battle of the Bigs as Sylvia Fowles dueled with Liz Cambage down low, both pleading to the officials for fouls early and often (More on that later). The Australian center, who has recently been under fire due to an investigation of some truly horrible behavior against the Nigerian National Team, dominated the battle early, scoring 7 points in a row to start the game off. She also got help all night from “Hollywood” Carter as well, showing off her explosive ability with the ball in her hands. She finished the game with 20 points and a team-high six rebounds (!).
The real story was Minnesota’s 29.6% shooting from the field though.
It was essentially the Lynx’s inability to score from the field versus the Sparks’ inability to guard without fouling. The home team was able to keep themselves from getting blown out due to a 21-13 free throw advantage. Despite that, coach Cheryl Reeve still worked the refs all night, nearly getting thrown out a number of times.
The game started to get more interesting in the 2nd half though. Well, interesting if you like reviews and more foul calls. By my unofficial count, there were at least five calls that went to the monitors for review, slowing down any potential momentum that either team had. To their credit though, Minnesota dialed up the defensive intensity and forced a number of Los Angeles turnovers as well. Their offense still mostly revolved around getting to the line, as Aerial Powers continued her bruising style of play that we have become very accustomed to seeing from her. She led the team with nine made free throws before unfortunately getting her night cut short due to getting smacked in the face by Chiney Ogwumike. It would be the second time AP was hit, but this time she’d get sent to the locker room briefly and miss shooting her free throws, ruling her unavailable to return despite coming back to the sidelines shortly afterwards. She finished the night with 15 points, three assists, and one steal.
After spending the entire game slowly clawing back, a Moriah Jefferson triple would knot things up at 65 early in the fourth quarter. The foul issues would remain a constant though, as Syl would pick up her two final fouls with 6:11 remaining. Despite missing two of their (usual) starters, Minnesota would still continue fighting back, going on a 8-1 run to tie the game off a quick hit Rachel Banham jumper with 26.6 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, Los Angeles would get Nneka Ogwumike attacking an undersized Lynx team in the post. Despite missing her initial shot, she would out-physical her defenders and snatch her lone offensive rebound of the night before pushing up the go-ahead putback. Kayla McBride, who had been instrumental in the late comeback attempt, pushed the ball down the floor with 7.3 seconds remaining before missing a closely contested 17-footer, essentially ending the game. KMac led Minnesota with 19 points, two rebounds, and three steals.
Clutch bucket by Nneka Ogwumike for the LA Sparks win ‼️ pic.twitter.com/t1ilikv6ak— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 30, 2022
Cheryl Reeve on tonight's loss:— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) May 30, 2022
"We got ourselves back in it. ... I was concerned with exactly what happened, that is Nneka on the glass. ... We didn't want Nneka to get the second chance and she did."#WNBA #Lynx
On a night where the hometown fans got to reminisce on the championship days, they were left reliving game 7 of the 2016 WNBA championship.
Minnesota will embark on another three game road trip starting with the surprising Atlanta Dream on Wednesday 6/1 at 6:00pm CT. Rookie sensation Rhyne Howard has been taking the W by storm with her impressive shot making and overall presence on the court, leading her young team to a 5-3 record. Howard is averaging 16.9 points per game (10th) on an impressive 2.9 treys per game (4th) while maintaining it at a 42.6% clip. Meanwhile, the Dream are second in defensive rating. This ain’t your average Atlanta team this year.