2016 WNBA Finals quotes from practice: Minnesota and Los Angeles talk about Game 3

With the WNBA Finals best-of-five series tied 1-1 between the two top teams in the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are set to face off in game three on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT in Los Angeles on ESPN2. The game takes place at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. Game 4 will be at the Staples Center in downtown L.A. on Sunday.

Los Angeles took the first game, defeating the Minnesota Lynx 78-76 on Sunday in Minneapolis. The Lynx roared back to down the Sparks 79-60 in game two on Tuesday. The teams had a travel day on Wednesday and practiced Thursday at USC.

The Lynx are seeking a fourth title in six years. The Sparks are hunting for their first championship since 2002. During the regular season, the Lynx led the series 2-1.

The teams met the media at the Galen Center today. The following quotes are from the practices.

Minnesota Lynx

Head coach Cheryl Reeve

Reeve: It’s WNBA Finals Game 3. It’s a control game. We’d worry the same thing that they’re probably going to worry about with us. There is no adjustment that somebody is going to make that is going to catch somebody off guard. It really is, at this point, about players making plays. You’re not going to get your first option, not going to get your second option. This is a team that can do that. It’s a team that’s going to get the separation that’s needed.

Q: What degree is it a chess match between you and Agler and your players and their players?
Reeve: It probably has very little to do with that, to be honest with you. I think there are schemes that we each want, that we want our players to be persistent in getting. But outside, I think that’s overrated as far as any kind of a chess match.

Q: What do you like about your defense against Candace and the way you’ve handled her?
Reeve: When I think about the first game, I thought she got layups, so I didn’t like that very much. I thought we were better in the second game. It’s been okay. I think at times it’s been pretty solid. She’s getting shots and opportunities. We’re just trying to make it hard for her. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

Q: How important was it for you guys to get that win at home knowing you’re coming to LA?
Reeve: I don’t know. How would you guys feel coming down here down 0-2? Nobody wants to be down 0-2 and then go on the road. We’re a good road team, so we would have had to deal with it. But yeah, it’s as close to a must-win as you can get.

Maya Moore

Q: What are your takeaways from Game 2?
Moore: It was a high-energy game. Both teams were competing. We were trying to push the tempo and play off of our defense. We were able to play the way we wanted to. We weren’t perfect, but we were more ourselves. We made it a little bit harder for them to score inside and were covering for each other defensively better than Game 1. The game was back and forth at times. We were able to go on some big runs offensively and defensively. They did as well. It was a game where both teams were very explosive.

Q: How are preparing for Game 3?
Moore: We have to come as prepared as possible. We have to play with the highest amount of execution and energy that we can. It’s not complicated this time of the year. Both teams are going to make adjustments. We have to come out execute at a higher level than we did in Games 1 and 2.

Q: How important is it for your team to emphasize defending Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike?
Moore: At this point in the game, both teams know each very well. Those are two very effective players. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of attention on those two. That’s no easy task. They are very talented and gifted players. The highest amount of attention will continue to be paid to both of them.

Sylvia Fowles

Q: With the series tied, what do you all focus on to take the lead tomorrow?
Fowles: Just keeping at the top of our mind what this team is about. Just going out and playing good from the start. I can’t pinpoint on anything we want to do. We just want to play the way we’re capable of playing.

Q: Both teams are the one and two seeds, evenly matched, but in the last game you all broke away. What do you do to make sure you stay on top tomorrow night?
Fowles: I think that if we come out with a good start and we play consistent throughout the game like we did the majority of the last game, we should be ok.

Seimone Augustus

Q: What are your takeaways from Game 2?
Augustus: It was a hard-fought game. We were just a lot more aggressive on the offensive end. We tried to attack them as much as we could and get them in foul trouble. We wanted to put them in very uncomfortable positions. Defensively, we were very active. We were a lot more active and communicated better in Game 2.

Q: How are you preparing for Game 3?
Augustus: We know they are going to come in and jump on us from the start. We have to be able to stop their run and go own our run. That’s how it’s going to be the entire night. It’s going to be a heavyweight bout. If they throw a punch, we have to throw a punch right back. No matter what, we cannot give up on our defensive and offensives schemes.

Q: What adjustments are you making for Game 3?
Augustus: Very few. We have some details that we need to clean up, but they are all minor. It’s good to say we only have small things to address rather than major things. Having to make major adjustments at this point would be drastic and not a good sign.

Lindsay Whalen

Q: You all have played well this season in Los Angeles, does that motivate you going forward?
Whalen: We’re in The Finals, so there is a lot of motivation for wanting to do well and play at a high level. We want to make sure that we’re good teammates to each other, we’re working hard and continuing to do as well as we can.

Q: Defensively, you were able to hold them to 60 points last game. What was working for you?
Whalen: We have some areas we can improve. Just working hard, trying to be good to each other and play as well as we can.

Q: Is there an advantage to the fact that you all have more Finals experience than Los Angeles?
Whalen: We’ve been to a lot of Finals, and we can draw on some past experiences, but we’re focused on what we can do this year. They’re a really good team with great focus, energy and they’ve been playing really well. We just need to focus on Game 3.

Rebekkah Brunson

Q: You all have played well this season in Los Angeles, does that motivate you going forward?
Brunson: No, because none of those games matter. It doesn’t matter what we did in the regular season. It doesn’t matter what we did previously. It’s all about what we can do while we’re here now.

Q: Defensively, you were able to hold them to 60 points last game. What was working for you?
Brunson: I think we just made everything difficult for them. We didn’t give them easy stuff. We tried to eliminate the easy stuff gave them. I still feel like there’s some steps we can take defensively to be even better than we were.

Q: You were very active on the offensive glass. Is that something that you’re looking to continue?
Brunson: Absolutely. We have great rebounders on this team and we’re trying to get as many shots as we can get. It’s to our benefit so we want to do whatever we can to continue to go in and crash the glass and get offensive boards. You never know when the extra possessions will matter.

Los Angeles Sparks

Head coach Brian Agler

Agler: We didn’t like how we played on Tuesday. We were a little disappointed on that – not necessarily the outcome. I try to just focus on how you play. We didn’t play quite with the focus and the urgency that we did on Sunday. That being said, if someone would tell me, you’re going to go up there and split, would you take it? We would probably take it against a really good team like Minnesota is. But here and now, we’ve just been focusing on playing than we did on Tuesday, which means we have to defend. We have to move the ball on offense. We have to find ways to manufacture points.

Q: What would you like to see from Nneka and Candace?
Agler: Just being aggressive. Just being more on their front foot than their back foot. Playing and using the skills that they have, their athleticism, their basketball instincts and their intelligence. They’re elite in those kind of ways. We need to find ways to bring that out.

Q: Obviously, Minnesota is strong with its defense and slow Candace down. Is there something you’re seeing from them specifically that they’re really keying in on?
Agler: No. They are a really good defensive team, and I don’t know if there is any magic to what they’re doing, other than they’re just doing what they do, and they do it well. They make you have to dig down deeper than you normally do. We’ve got to find ways to keep her on the move, and she’s going to have to find ways to really be assertive.

Candace Parker

Q: What is your mindset after getting the split in Minnesota?
Parker: Our mindset is to protect home court. We have to take it one game at a time. The only thing that is important is the next game.

Q: What adjustments are being made for Game 2?
Parker: We have to play better defense. We shot terrible. I think a lot of that was because of our energy and effort. I don’t think we were as focused as we were in Game 1.

Q: How did it feel to host a youth clinic basketball clinic?
Parker: It felt really good to be around kids. It’s always fun to see their energy and how much they love to play basketball.

Kristi Toliver

Q: What is your mindset after getting the split in Minnesota?
Toliver: We have to protect home court. We did our work in Minnesota. To be able to take Game 1 in Minnesota was good for us. Our focus and mindset should be to win on Friday. That’s all we’re thinking about. We know we have to be more aggressive and assertive. We also have to compete harder. If we can protect home court, that means we’ll be champions. That’s all we’re thinking about.

Q: How important is it to get your teammates going early?
Toliver: I think I’ll always have to maintain my aggressiveness, but I have to think about the game better. I can’t get too emotional during the game. In these playoffs, everything feels amplified. I need to take a step back and refocus. That will help me regain my composure and getting my teammates the right shots.

Q: How did it feel to host a youth clinic basketball clinic?
Toliver: It was fun. It reminds us that it is a game and where we started. It made light of things. The Finals are very serious, but to see the joy those kids had was a good feeling.

Nneka Ogwumike

Q: Talk about what the team focused on in practice today.
Ogwumike: Today we focused on things that we need to patch up defensively. I think aside from the tactics, we really just need to have more of an aggressive mentality when it comes to defense. We definitely want to make it very difficult for them to run their offense, which is what we did not do last game. Those stops will hopefully get us easy buckets.

Q: The series is 1-1 now, back to even. How do you take the advantage tomorrow night?
Ogwumike: It’s kind of just a second opportunity, you know? We’re not down a game. We’re not up a game. It’s one to one, and it’s like the first game again. We have to be able to come out with the same mentality.

Alana Beard

Q: What were some of the things you all were working on in today’s practice?
Beard: We didn’t make too many adjustments. Focus on a little bit of detail. I don’t know if I want to give out too much of what we’re going to do, but just stay focused on the little details.

Q: How focused is this team for the next game to set the tone by taking the lead?
Beard: It’s another game. We can right our wrongs. Obviously, no game is perfect and this is the playoffs and every possession counts, just going back and watching film, making adjustments. I think we’re pretty focused, and I don’t think we’ve lacked focus. We just didn’t do the things we wanted to do in Game 2.

Essence Carson

Q: How does it feel to come back to L.A. with the series tied 1-1?
Carson: It feels good. We were able to do what we set out to do and that’s win – at least one game on the road. We’re in pretty good position but we have to handle business tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough game. Two great teams going at it.

Q: Defensively, you have been able to hold them to around 78 points a game this series, but offensively, you only scored 60 points in Game 2. Do you all need to make bigger adjustments defensively or offensively?
Carson: I wouldn’t say big adjustments, but adjustments need to be made, on both ends, defensively and offensively. Some of the points that we scored in the first game was because of transition, our ability to get the ball out quick, get the ball up the court quickly. Even though they only scored 79 and 78 points, we weren’t able to play our best defense. There were some holes that we need to fill to allow us to propel our offense. And when we don’t have those opportunities we have to execute better in the half court situations.

Q: How are you planning to keep Rebekkah [Brunson] and Sylvia [Fowles] off the glass?
Carson: We have to do our job and that’s putting a body on them. It’s that simple. They didn’t do anything out of the norm. They’ve been great rebounders their entire careers. We have to pay a little bit more attention to detail and make sure we find them and put a body on them, to make sure we give ourselves a chance to rebound the ball.

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