Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Lynx and Sparks preview Game 4 of the WNBA Finals: Minnesota on brink of ouster

Published on October 1, 2017

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Chelsea Gray of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles past Jia Perkins of the Minnesota Lynx. Photo © Lee Michealson.

Chelsea Gray of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles past Jia Perkins of the Minnesota Lynx. Photo © Lee Michealson.

Los Angeles leads the series: 2-1

*If necessary

Quotes from Saturday’s Practice

Minnesota Lynx || Los Angeles Sparks

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

Q: After the game you said the team’s defense was there, but what can you do to get the team’s offense going?

Reeve: Well LA’s defense is what’s going on. I’m not afraid to give someone credit when they’ve earn it and they have really. It’s their identity, they’ve all bought into that. I recognize that and that’s something that we value as well. I would say first and foremost, that’s what’s going on. It’s not something we didn’t prepare for though. In our weeks leading into the series we wanted to be ready for the team that would be like LA. We put a lot of time into that and sometimes we’ve responded well, as you see, and there’s other times we don’t. There were too many times, especially during last game that we just didn’t respond at all. They made the game hard. We have to do more when the game gets hard. You can’t take shortcuts.     

Q: Did you talk about that at all?

Reeve: Absolutely but I don’t get answers. I always say this, players don’t intentionally not do things, that I know of. As a coach, you try to find different ways to communicate it because you want to be successful. You want to put them in position to be successful. You just have to keep giving information, keep pushing forward and see if we can turn the corner tomorrow.

Q: This has been a first-punch series from the very beginning. Is there anything you can do as a coach to make sure you’re throwing the first punch this time?

Reeve: Each coach has talked about it, I’m sure, beginning with Game 1. I know that Brian [Agler] talked about it before Game 2, but yet we punched. We talked about it before Game 3 but yet [they punched]. At some point, it isn’t about trying to motivate and talk, it’s about collective will and whoever has that is going to win the game.

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Q: When the chips are down and your team is in a must-win situation, what do you think comes out of you guys?

Fowles: I don’t know. I think for the most part we respond well when our back is against the wall. I don’t like those back-up-against-the-wall situations, but unfortunately, that’s where we are at this point. You just have to keep fighting and keep battling. Take what comes and that’s Game 4. If we want to stay alive in this thing, we have to make sure to stay energized and in tune with what’s going on.

Q: What was one thing in particular whether it was rebounding or anything else that you guys have to focus on?

Fowles: I don’t think it has to do with anything defensively. I think it was a lot of us not getting into our offensive flow or rushing through our offense. I think that pretty much put us in the damper.

Q: Every game has had an intense finish. What does this rivalry and series mean for basketball?

Fowles: I guess that’s why it’s called a series because you get the best of the best. LA is just that team who brings the best out of you. They’re going to make you think and make you fight. Within in this series, you have to play smart. Like I said before, it comes down to the little things that’s going to separate each team because we’re so similar in so many areas. Having this series has been a challenge, but at the same time, I think it’s good from women’s professional spots.

Q: What is LA doing to make it difficult for your team to get off to good starts?

Fowles: I think it plays both ways. I think LA coming out and being physical and aggressive, but at the same time, I think we’re overthinking it on the offensive end. On defense, I think we’re overhelping a little bit too much.

Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx

Q: Last night didn’t go the way you wanted it to, so how do you bounce back from such a tough loss?

Whalen: Our backs are against the wall now and I don’t think there’s too many things that need to be said, just have to come out and be ready to go from the start. It’s do or die for us now. We have to be ready to go and focused for Game 4. 

Q: Is there anything that they did defensively to frustrate you?

Whalen: I thought they were aggressive and they started last night wanting to put pressure on the perimeter. They did that well and we have to be more persistent offensively.

Q: Is there something individually you want to do to help the team get off to a more aggressive start? 

Whalen: It’s never a question of wanting to help the team be aggressive from the start, you always want to do that. That’s been the case for every game. Certain nights it goes well for you and certain nights it doesn’t go as well for you. Whether it’s decision making, the defense, taking things away or us having to adjust quicker, I think everyone wants to come into the game doing what they can to make it a successful game for the team and be aggressive.  

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx

Q: What do you want to do better? I know collectively everybody thinks as a team, but there has to be something you, individually, want to do better.

Augustus: Me, personally, just offensively being more aggressive and more assertive. Find my spots, even when the offense gets chaotic. Defensively, I’m doing the best I can on [Chelsea] Gray. In those situations, I’m in her face and she’s still making great plays. Even if she’s not scoring the ball, she’s a great passer. She’s a great facilitator. As far as me, just finding my spots. I’m trying to give people space. Maybe I need to go and get the ball and be more aggressive at times. That’s all as far as me changing what I need to do.

Q: How do you guys deal with the pressure that’s been put on you?

Augustus: What pressure? What pressure that we haven’t faced before? Six of the last seven Finals we’ve been a part of. We’ve won three championships in that run. It’s not a pressure that we haven’t seen before. So, why would it be some pressure now that we haven’t dealt with? I don’t see it.

Q: What are you guys doing to prepare to face this team for yet another game?

Augustus: We’re all we have. We have to go out there and this is it. Either our season goes one game further or ends tomorrow. No looking back. You can’t think about anything else. You have to leave everything on the table. We think about hockey players. I went to my first hockey game last year. I was like, “Man, they only stay on the hockey ice for like 30 seconds or maybe a minute, they’re not out there that long.” They give all they have within that 30 seconds or minute they’re on the floor. That’s the same mentality that we have to have tomorrow. I may only be out for a stretch of a minute, but if I’m giving everything I have in that minute, that’s just the flow that we have to go with. That’s how we’re going to play each and every minute and second we’re on the floor.

Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx

Q: What is LA doing to make it difficult for your team to get off to maintain good energy and get off to a good start?

Brunson: I think energy solely has to do with yourself. Of course, they’re going to try to be as disruptive as possible. If you want to look at from that perspective then, yes, they’ve been doing a good job of disrupting us.

Q: Coach Reeve said she needed more from her starters. Did you guys speak about that as a group?

Brunson: I think we have had a conversation amongst ourselves. I think we’re a team that is pretty good at coming together after we don’t play the way we want to play and figuring out how we can get it done next time.

Q: Every game has had an intense finish. What does this rivalry and series mean for basketball?

Brunson: I think it means that there is a great product out there. There are some great players in this league and some great teams in this league. To see these teams come out and clash and give it everything they have in a Finals that has been fun to watch for fans — I think it shows the growth that the league has.

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

Q: When you look back to this day a year ago and you were in a similar situation, do you remember what was going through your mind in terms of going into a Game 4 you have to win on the road?

Moore: I’m not really thinking too much about last year, other than knowing that if your season is alive than your season is alive. It’s alive as long as you fight for it. We’re just trying to stay in this moment right now and doing the things that we know it will take to give ourselves a chance to extend this series. At the end of the day, I just want to be fully present the moment we step on that court tomorrow.

Q: How do you get off to a better start in Game 4 than you did in Game 3?

Moore: The fouls in the first half were rough. I just have to continue to put myself in a position where it doesn’t look like I’m fouling. I have to be really aggressive while continuing to be smart, which I did for the most part in the second half so I know I can. It’s just a matter of remembering for the entire course of the game how important being in good defensive position is. I’m confident I will be able to do it.  

Q: What makes LA’s defense so tough?

Moore: They’re very committed to pressuring the passer, the person trying to catch the ball and doing their best to protect the paint. It’s a great combination. The same thing we try to do. It’s a matter of who can do it with more discipline and more energy.

Los Angeles Sparks

Brian Agler, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: Your players are saying the message you gave them last year is that you were trying to win a championship and not a game. How much do you think they’ve learned from that?

Agler: We’ll probably find out tomorrow. At the same, I honestly think we can come out and play a great game tomorrow and still not win. That’s how competitive this series is, so my focus right now is trying to help our team play as well as we can.

Q: They’ve gone to the smaller lineup with some success. You have seen that a couple times now, how do you feel you guys will deal with that if they do that?

Agler: I am hoping we keep improving against it. They put a lot of shooters around Maya and Sylvia and that can put a different kind of pressure on a defense. I don’t know if they prefer to play that way because that means they have a lot of really good players sitting on that bench, and it does give them another option.

Q: What is it about Maya Moore, she’s had some ups and downs this series, and you’ve been able to defend her pretty successfully. How big of a factor do you think she can be for them tomorrow?

Agler: I envision Maya from yesterday’s second half, from how she played in game four last year. I have the utmost respect for her abilities, how tough she is to defend from an individual standpoint and a team standpoint. I don’t know her really well, but I do know she’s a great individual.

Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What was the focus for your team during today’s practice?

Gray: We went over some adjustment that we have to make defensively and offensively. We were active and watched film.

Q: What is the approach going into tomorrow knowing this is a clinch game?

Gray: We have to play our game like any other. We have to remain aggressive and stay on pace with their scorers.

Q: The team was in this situation last year; do you see any similarities and what will it take to close out the series?

Gray: Last year was last year and we are focused on the series this year. We have to focus on the little things and do things that we need to win this game and not the championship.

Odyssey Sims, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What will be the deciding factor tomorrow to close out the series?

Sims: It’s going to take everything, just everything we have, literally. I can’t pinpoint anything. It’s going to take all 12 of us and the coaches, we’re going to need everybody. Tomorrow is going to be very important in order to close it out at home.

Q: With the focus being on winning the game and not the championship, what is your mindset going into this game?

Sims: Our mindset is to win. It has nothing to do with the championship and it has nothing to do with anything else. It’s another game, a very important game, but we can’t automatically think we haven’t won. We have to focus on what we have to do offensively and defensively to beat a very good Minnesota Lynx team.

Q: It seems like whoever has won the first quarter has won the game. Let’s talk about the importance of coming out strong.

Sims: Coming out strong definitely has something to do with it, but it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. You watch these first three games and see how both teams have been down 20-plus points and have been able to come back and make it a game and to win.

Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What are the keys to winning the championship in Game 4 at Staples Center?

Beard: I think as individuals we have to make a decision as to what we want. As an individual and then collectively that will all come together, but ultimately, we’re making a choice as to what type of team we want to be. Do we want to be the team from Game 2 or the team from Game 3?

Q: What defensive adjustments are you making for Game 4?

Beard: Obviously we’re going to make tweaks, but we can make all the tweaks we want. If it comes down to a 50-50 ball, a tweak won’t cure that. You’ve got to get the rebounds and do the intangibles. Yes, we’re going to make tweaks but ultimately it’s going to come down to the intangible stuff.

Q: How much would it mean to win The Finals at home in Los Angeles?

Beard: It would mean a lot, but that is not the focus. I think last year coach said it best after Game 4. We played to win a championship last year instead of playing to win the game. You just have to break it down into small boxes. Right now, we want to win possession by possession and then eventually we’ll get what we want if we do it the right way.

Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What is this team’s mindset going into Game 4?

Ogwumike: Game 4 is us coming in ready to go and doing everything we can do to win the game. We’re not looking too deep into it. We just want to focus on the task at hand. We have responsibilities. It’s not going to be easy. It hasn’t been easy up until this point and it’s definitely getting harder as we go.

Q: How much would it mean to win the Finals on your home court at Staples Center?

Ogwumike: I think it would be huge, especially for the fans. For us to win one in general, every team wants to win one. That’s why we know we’re going to see a valiant effort from Minnesota tomorrow, but to be able to do it at Staples would be very special.

Q: Do you expect a strong response from Minnesota on Sunday?

Ogwumike: Anybody would be crazy not to expect that, for sure that’s what we’re expecting. We expected it even before the series began. We’re going to be ready.

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: At this point in the season, how much of your approach is physical and how much is mental?

Parker: I think there are a lot of variables. I think you have to be able to play basketball, but mentally you have to be tough. I do think it’s a lot about just doing it and not overthinking.

Q: When you know this Minnesota team so well, how do you come up with something new?

Parker: If you look at the way both of us make adjustments and do things, it’s tough. I think it’s about who makes the best in-game adjustments. We both know each other so well. We know the spots on the floor that the other person wants to get to. It’s just about making plays on the defensive end and offensive end.

Q: What are the keys for tomorrow night to win?

Parker: We have to continue to make them uncomfortable. I think when we make things difficult, it might not pay off right then and there, but maybe later on it will. That’s the mindset we have to have. That’s what they do. They get into us. They are physical. They play aggressive defense, but I think that is the mindset that we have to have, just making things difficult in whatever they do. That’s on the offensive end too, not settling for bad shots and making them move defensively as they do with us.

This post is part of the thread: 2017 WNBA Season – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


 

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