The Los Angeles Sparks close out the series (3-1) against rival Minnesota Lynx with a resounding 79-57 win in front of an energized Staples Center crowd on Thursday (Aug. 2). After five straight home game losses, the Sparks held the Lynx to a season low 57 points.
“We definitely don’t like each other very much, “ said Candace Parker, who finished with a double-double 23 points and 10 rebounds. “When you play somebody so many times, that happens.”
The Sparks came out to a hot start as Parker scored 10 of the team’s first 15 points. At the end of the first quarter, the Sparks led 20-8.
“I just think our batteries were recharged,” stated Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “Obviously, it doesn’t take much for us to be ready to play Minnesota.”
“With the rivalry comes the aggression, and understanding that we have to limit possessions, so boxing out getting rebounds and then executing,” added Sparks’ second leading scorer and rebounder Nneka Ogwumike, who returned to the starting lineup after having missed three games due to suffering headaches and fatigue.
Ogwumike has scored in double figures every game she played in this season. She finished with 15 points and six rebounds. The Sparks also welcomed back to the lineup defensive spark Alana Beard (groin), who was tasked with guarding WNBA All-Star game MVP Maya Moore.
“I think it just adds to everyone’s dynamic and to our rotation,” commented Parker on her teammates’ return. “We know each other so well, our core group.”
Though WNBA All-Star Game MVP Maya Moore scored the first basket of the game, she scored just eight points in the game. While Sylvia Fowles scored a team high 14 points and had eight rebounds. In Ogwumike and Beard’s absence, both Parker and Chelsea Gray were forced into different roles.
“The ball is in her hands a lot,” Parker said of Gray. “She made huge plays in the second quarter back to back, assists, creating, getting to the basket…we told her years ago she’s going to be a top guard in the WNBA and she is.”
Gray contributed 18 points, nine assists, and five rebounds to the Sparks win over the Lynx. By halftime, the Sparks forced an uncharacteristic nine Lynx turnovers and maintained the lead (40-29).
“In the past we’ve had a bit of trouble keeping our poise, but today we did a really good job of getting set, running the play and getting a basket,” said Ogwumike.
Thursday night made it the 25th time that the Sparks have played the Lynx in the past three years.
“We know each other,” said Agler.
The Sparks, who are currently second in the Western Conference standings and Lynx, number four, remain two of the eight teams in the race for a playoff spot.
“Standing-wise, it’s not the same, but it doesn’t erase our history and what’s happened the last three years,” Parker said. “That’s huge for us. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing for a championship. We have to get physical.”
With only seven games left in the regular season, the Sparks will keep a close eye on the playoff seeding and attempt to win out.