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Lynx 84, Sparks 77: Clawing to Stay in the Race

A total team effort helps Minnesota pull to just 1.0 game back of the playoffs with just 2 weeks left in the season.

Minnesota Lynx v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


If this game had to be summed up in one adjective, it’s that. The home team Los Angeles Sparks entered the contest clinging onto the eighth and final postseason spot with three different teams breathing down their neck. One of those teams was their longtime rival, Minnesota Lynx. I made the trek out to Arena to see what the Lynx would be made of, but to also catch Sylvia Fowles’ (likely) final game in Los Angeles.

I was not disappointed early.

Syl dominated on both ends of the court (16 points, 8/9 FG), scoring eight of Minnesota’s first 13 points of the game to help open up an early lead. As we’ve become used to seeing, the Sparks (and their fans) couldn’t do much more than through their collective hands up in frustration as the best center of all-time took control of the game.

The lead ballooned up to as much as 16 late in the second quarter as Moriah Jefferson (22 points, 9/14 FG), Kayla McBride (15 points, 5 FGA!), and Rachel Banham (10 points, 4/5 FG) attacked from perimeter. Nneka Ogwumike (23 points, 9/18 FG) looked to be on an island, singlehandedly trying to keep the Sparks somewhat competitive as Minnesota looked to be speeding away, dropping two straight 26-point quarters that amounted to a 52-43 halftime lead.

Things certainly slowed down in the third. Both teams got into foul trouble early and the offensive rhythm was taken out of the Lynx sails. That said, the offensive ineptitude of Los Angeles kept them from getting any closer than nine. The persistent Minnesota ball movement on offense helped them build a game-high 20-point lead with just 6:26 left. The final shooting splits on the night was lopsided in the Lynx favor; .544/.545/.762 in comparison to the Sparks .361/.240/.917.

Victory seemed imminent.

Unfortunately, as we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Coach Cheryl Reeve’s team all season - No lead is safe. The elephant in the room that has been holding Minnesota back this season inevitably showed up in those final six minutes.


The Lynx committed five of their 19 turnovers (LA had just 7) in a three and a half minute span which was compounded by missing six of their final seven field goals to end the game. To make matters worse? A pair of flagrant-1 foul calls against Aerial Powers and Jessica Shepard allowed the Sparks to storm back within five points plus possession with just 50.6 seconds remaining.

That 18-3 run got the building rocking again. The entire crowd got on their feet and roared with every Minnesota mishap. The Sparks were finally giving their fans something to cheer about after a lackluster performance for the first 34 minutes of the game. LA head coach Fred Williams drew up a quick hit sidelines-out-of-bounds play to get Nneka a look from perimeter. In a night where it felt like everything was falling for the seven-time All-Star, including a three pointer just seconds earlier, Ogwumike immediately launched a three-ball with the utmost confidence in the world. She didn’t hold her follow-through and slightly turned her body to the side right after the ball left her fingers. It was almost a Steph Curry-like reaction. The crowd held their breath. The Lynx sideline solemnly awaited their fate.

The ball came up a few inches short and caught front rim.

It caromed back out to her hands. 13 seconds and seven passes later, a missed Chiney Ogwunike mid-ranger was safely rebounded by Fowles as the game was sealed with a couple McBride free throws.

The victory now brings Minnesota within 1.0 game back of the eighth spot, 1.5 games back of the seventh spot, and 2.0 games of the sixth spot with four more games left on their slate. This huge victory wasn’t pretty, but it represents a season that has mostly been “not pretty.”

Both before and after the game, Syl got her flowers. Literally. Seimone Augustus presented her with flowers prior to tip-off as the Sparks acknowledged the GOAT. After the game, after I (successfully) pined for an autograph, a fan presented Fowles with another bouquet of flowers from the bleachers. You love to see it!

My skinny arm

Game Highlights

What’s Next

Every game is essentially a must-win for the Lynx, as they haven’t been able to control their fate for some time. Their last five games include a pair against fourth place Seattle Storm, a pair of games the playoff jockeying Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury, and a tussle with the contending Connecticut Sun.

First up is a trip to visit the Seattle Storm on Wednesday 8/3 @ 9pm CT. These two teams last played in Seattle during their season opener with both rosters looking very different. Minnesota was still starting Yvonne Turner and playing Odyssey Sims big minutes, neither of whom are on the team now. Meanwhile, Seattle has added former MVP, Tina Charles, to their starting roster.

Oh, and I entered that game a non-engaged partner.