Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Lynx recover to take Game 2, beat Sparks 79-60

Published on October 12, 2016


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The Minnesota Lynx recovered from a game one loss in the WNBA Finals best-of-five series Tuesday night defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 79-60 at the Target Center. With the win the Lynx tied the Sparks for the most home wins in WNBA Playoff history (24).

“I know defensively we were way better today…I just thought our commitment to our concepts were better,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “Obviously I don’t know that we could have been worse than what we did last game as far as the types of easy baskets we gave up, so obviously we cleaned some things up. I was happy about that.”

Led by Maya Moore, the Lynx were in control for the majority of the game outpacing the Sparks in the first quarter 21-11 and withstanding a valiant comeback effort by their opponent in the third quarter. The Lynx never trailed in the contest.

Los Angeles head coach Brian Agler said the Lynx were “very hungry” in game two.

“I know I use that word a lot, but to me that’s what jumps out to me when you see a team play with strong desire,” Agler said. “This was a very important, I mean, we played like this game was more important to them than it was to us, and that’s unfortunate, because you don’t get these opportunities often, so you have to play like you know you may not get this game back. That being said, they handily outplayed us.”

Moore finished with a double-double of 21 points plus 12 rebounds. Seimone Augustus contributed 14 points. Sylvia Fowles also earned a double-double of 13 points along with 15 rebounds. Rebekkah Brunson added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Alana Beard scoerd 13 points and pulled down five rebounds. The Lynx held Candace Parker to just six points and four rebounds.

The teams will meet for game three on Friday in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

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Minnesota Lynx

Head coach Cheryl Reeve

First, I want to commend our crowd. I thought from jump, their energy was just simply awesome, so I’m really, really proud of our fans. Gave us the lift that we needed.

Q. Particularly the domination on the glass, is that kind of the edge and the hunger you wanted to see coming into Game 2?

CHERYL REEVE: Well, it’s what we do, and so, yeah, I want us to play to our identity. It’s what we’re about in terms of when you have Rebekkah Brunson, whatever team she’s ever been on, that’s what she gives that team, and obviously she’s been doing that for us for a long time.

Yeah, you know, we — I think there’s only one statistic that maybe there’s a separator between the two teams, and it’s rebounding, so we might as well try to use it to our advantage, and it gives you the extra possessions. We got some good hustle plays. I thought we got burned with our guards trying to get in there and rebound a little bit. That third quarter was simply awful, the types of baskets we gave up because we didn’t have floor balance. But typical me; we’re beating them up and we won the game, but we’ve got some things we’ve got to do.

Q. Cheryl, Maya was able to get going early and then she got some support as the second half wore on. How do you think the flow on offense improved from Game 1 where you got solid efforts from a lot of different sources?

CHERYL REEVE: It improved dramatically. I thought that some of the things that we showed them on video, no question LA’s defense and their aggression was a factor in Game 1, but I also thought we contributed to our inability to get some things done as far as ball movement. We showed them that on video. We did some stuff in shoot-around today, a little bit better play calling in terms of moving them. I thought we made what we call the hockey assist. I thought it was more than just the one pass and then try to go score. I thought we moved it side to side a little bit better. We still have some things we’ve got to recognize that’s open. They clogged the paint well. It’s obviously a great defensive team. Every time you score, it’s one of those things, it’s a huge accomplishment for both teams.

I’m proud of Syl. She didn’t always keep her cool, but I don’t — I guess maybe now I know how Shaq felt in the NBA because she hung in there through what I thought was a really, really, really physical game for her. But I told her that’s what it’s about. You can’t expect a call. You have to play that you’re not going to get a call, so you’ve got to go get it done anyway. So I thought today was a good game for her in terms of a lesson that you’ve got to keep your cool and you’ve got to keep playing.

Q. What did you think of Maya’s game tonight?

CHERYL REEVE: Maya was — Maya responded. Everybody asked me, how do I think Maya is going to respond from Game 1, and I said, if I know Maya, I know Maya hasn’t slept and Maya probably wanted to play yesterday and get right back to it. I think Maya more than anything just wanted for our team to play the way that we’re capable of playing, and I thought she gave us a big lift with her focus, her intensity. She had a double-double, she got rebounds, she made some threes. She’s really hard to guard, all the little shot fakes. She was very, very active, and I think Maya had a lot of fun today.

Q. How would you describe Seimone’s response tonight, and what do you think when you’re on the sidelines when you see her so fired up because she’s sometimes laid back? What’s that like for you?

CHERYL REEVE: Yeah, you know, it took Seimone — like I thought maybe the initial part of the game, she wasn’t in that — she didn’t kick into that bayou mode, and so I don’t know what happened. We always kind of wonder what happened in the game that kind of got her going. I knew it wasn’t going to be me. I told her, I’m done trying to get her going. We’re both too old for that. And so ‘Mone got herself going, and what her teammates tell her all the time is how much they feed off of her energy, and when she kind of displays the passion that she displayed when she got going, it’s vital. I say it to her, I’ve been saying it to her since 2011, we don’t lose when she’s engaged at that level, and I thought tonight was an example of that.

Q. In the second quarter, late in that quarter you guys had a 17-3 run, you were very strong both offensively and defensively. It gave you the separation that you needed every bit of when they made the comeback in the third quarter. What was it in that second quarter that allowed you guys to pull away?

CHERYL REEVE: Well, I thought we were playing with flow, when you can get stops. I thought we got stops, defending without fouling, so you can take the ball off the rim and you can go, so I thought we had good flow. I thought we had really good pace. I thought when we did get set, I think our execution on offense was good. We moved, and we executed. That was probably the biggest thing. We executed the game plan defensively. We got some things that we were trying to get. We were more persistent on offense, and like you said, we needed every bit of it.

Q. You put some emphasis on the defensive performance after the last game; tonight twice they cut into double-digit leads, carved them down to reasonable single digits and then you were able to reestablish momentum to finish with a 19-point advantage. How were you able to do that, and specifically how were you able to be so successful at containing Parker?

CHERYL REEVE: Well, there’s no question that our defense was improved. I’m sure that they had some open shots that they missed. We don’t think that we can give Lavender open shots the way that we did tonight and think that’s going to go like it did tonight consistently. There’s just no way.

I think if you look at it, I think that we had a little more attention to detail on not letting them get where they wanted to get without giving away any kind of defensive schemes, but I thought in general, each time when they closed the gap, it was about us, the combination of things.

Third quarter there we were absolutely awful on offense. I think we went in at halftime, what were we shooting at halftime, 46, 47, somewhere in there? And the next thing you know, in the third quarter we’re shooting 40 percent, which means that it was like in the 30s when we came out in the third quarter, so it was absolutely awful.

I thought we had decent shots on goal. We just couldn’t put it down, and you can’t have those stretches, and in the process of doing that, then all of a sudden they’re going the other way, I’ve got no floor balance, there’s lay-ups, lay-ups, lay-ups, and they’ve got a flow, and next thing you know, it was a one-possession game; did they cut it to three? And so we started a fire that we had to quickly douse, and our defense is what got it done. Our rebounding got it done, and then obviously kind of closing it out.

We got in the bonus early in the fourth quarter. I don’t know how we only shot 14 free throws on the game when we were in the bonus so early in the fourth quarter. But that’s the way it went today.

Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus

Q. Maya, it was a pretty tight game even midway through the second quarter, and then you went on the 17-3 run. What allowed you guys to really pull away there and find a groove?

MAYA MOORE: Yeah, I think we always spark our runs when we can get stops in a row. We were able to rebound the ball. There was a stretch there where they did get a few O-boards, but for the most part we were able to secure most of the defensive rebounds and go.

I think we had a better understanding of our spacing tonight, better understanding of getting the ball moving tonight, and just the pace that we played with allowed us to really capitalize when we got those stops.

Q. Maya, Cheryl maybe half jokingly said you might not have slept all that well after Game 1. How did you feel after Game 1 and how do you feel now?

MAYA MOORE: Yeah, there’s only so many things you can do to take your mind off of a loss like that. Yeah, falling asleep was pretty hard. But thankfully I didn’t have any nightmares. I was able to sleep through the night after that.

But today was better. Our team is so great at being positive. Lindsay Whalen is one of those people that you get around her and she’s just going to pick you up. Sylvia is always smiling, and ‘Mone is going to come in and start talking trash and just get you going, just the good trash that gets you going and competitive. I’m kind of joking on that.

But I think, like I said, this team bounces back well, and you can’t stay down for too long when you’re on this team, and I’m a part of that, of wanting to come in and bring that energy, so that’s what I kind of took on myself personally today was just I’m going to bring more energy than I did last game, and it was contagious for me from other players who brought energy, and 1 through 11 it was probably one of our best games as far as energy in the Playoffs.

Q. Seimone, you start the fourth on a three-point play. Half of your points come in the fourth quarter. How do you think that helped the Lynx pull away and stay away when LA was making a second threat to your lead?

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS: We just were more aggressive. Like I just tried to attack more in the fourth quarter, or throughout the game I tried to attack, and it just so happened to fall my way. The fans were kind of sitting on their hands a little bit, and I think that helped them get into the game. The Target Center starts a-rockin’; that’s what we always kind of pride ourselves on, like we feed off their energy, and once we got going and got that run going, it was like no turning back.

Q. For both of you, the league MVP had six shots. How were you able to kind of structure your defense to limit her opportunities and kind of force them into maybe taking some shots they didn’t want to take?

MAYA MOORE: Hats off to our posts. They worked really, really hard tonight to just try to keep their bodies in front of Nneka, who is so good at screening and rolling or slipping. She’s so fast, so quick off the ground. So just trying to do their best to make her catches hard. As guards we try to apply ball pressure, we try to do what we can, but I think they just overall had a greater sense of just focus and keeping themselves in front of Nneka and trying to make it harder for her instead of getting those open lay-ups that she’s so explosive at getting with her athletic catches right down the middle.

It’s a hard job. They made it look easier, but it’s not. She’s such an explosive player. Keeping her off the boards, too.

It’s great, but it’s going to be hard to continue to do that, but we’re going to keep trying.

Q. Maya, Seimone got quite a bit of mileage in the last week describing the ways where she could tell how Lindsay Whalen is going to go off. How can you tell when Seimone is about to go off?

MAYA MOORE: Those dreads get to popping, nostrils get to flaring. I mean, my nostrils flare, too. We’re both nostril-flaring kind of players. Just that look in her eye. You know, she — when she — I don’t know if you get a lot of and-ones. You got some and-ones tonight, and we went crazy. That was — she’s slim but don’t let it fool you. She likes to mix it up — okay, I’m done. She likes to mix it up down there. No, she told us she was going to be better for us today.

We all, I think, had that mindset, but she went out and made some big plays, continuing off the big shot she hit last game to — before my lay-up, she hit that huge one to cut it to two, and shots like that just continued to happen for us tonight with ‘Mone, just poised. Her defense was also great, and I don’t know if she gets enough credit for that, as well. But that look in her eye when she gets to head bobbing and dreads popping, we know it’s about to continue.

Q. The talk the past few days has been about how you guys have been in this spot before. What’s the confidence level like going back to LA?

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS: We have a lot of confidence. Like you said, we was in this position before last year, and I mean, the thing for us is we know what we needed to do. We watched the entire game footage from Game 1, and we just seen where we made mistakes. Not saying that LA didn’t capitalize on the mistakes that we made, but there was a lot of empty possessions where they were able to get out in transition and spark their offense, a lot of defensive possessions where we had a lot of miscommunication. Those are simple things that we can clean up, but those are key details that can cost you the game, which it did in Game 1, so tonight was just another night where we were able to clean these things up, and if we keep improving coming into Game 3, we’ll put ourselves in a better position to pull off another win.

Q. Seimone, things got a little bit dicey there in the third quarter when they went on that 14-0 run, cut it all the way down to three points. What was the team talking about? What was going through you guys’ heads in terms of stopping the bleeding at that point?

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS: Just that, stopping the bleeding. We’re always talking about getting three-in-a-row stops, and at that point they had went on that run, and we needed to get a stop and get a score. That’s kind of how we look at it. That’s our mindset; once a team tries to go on their run, we try to stop the bleeding and then go on our own little bit of a run, and that’s what happened. We stopped the bleeding, started to run our offense, started to execute, and defensively we started to pick it up and got back into our groove again.

Los Angeles Sparks

Head coach Brian Agler

Q. Did you like the shots that you were getting offensively and just ones that you weren’t hitting, or do you think there were other problems with that?

BRIAN AGLER: No, we had some good looks. I felt like we didn’t turn the ball over much. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of extra second shots. I thought we missed — and I know that this isn’t going to be the difference in the outcome of the game, but I thought we missed some free throws at a time we could have really helped ourselves to stay in or maybe get a lead early in the game, and we didn’t convert. But when the ball went up on the glass and a shot was taken on either end, when the ball was in the midst of being possessed, they outworked us.

Q. You spoke a little bit about the persistence of Minnesota today. Could you talk a little bit about the second chances they had today when possessing the balls?

BRIAN AGLER: Yeah, like I said, I thought they — I don’t know exactly what they shot. I haven’t had a chance to study it. But they gave themselves second opportunities at some critical times. That definitely played into the outcome of the game. When the ball was up on the glass, they went and got it.

For us to win another game in this series or win the series either way, then we’re going to have to be more competitive on the boards.

Q. Could you comment on the shot distribution as opposed to whether you’re getting open shots? It looks from the score sheet that people who were shooting most poorly were taking most of the shots.

BRIAN AGLER: Well, I didn’t — I haven’t had a chance to really study it, but we’ll go back and look at it and see. I thought Kristi — we’ve got to have Kristi take shots. We’ve got to have Candace take shots. Now, how they’re getting them and those kind of things is important.

Now, the other thing you’ve got to remember is sometimes they’re defending us in a way to let people take shots. You know, they’re going to really obviously congest Nneka. They’re going to give Kristi a lot of attention. They’re going to give Candace a lot of attention. So that’s what I mean multiple people going at them, so that leaves people open. We’re going to have to find a way to convert those.

Q. Brian, in Game 1 you were minus eight in rebounds, tonight you’re minus 14. How do you patch that up with a couple of games in Los Angeles because that’s where Minnesota really seems to hang around, and tonight that’s where they got the edge.

BRIAN AGLER: No, we’ve got to — like I said, when the ball goes up on the glass, we’ve got to find a way to be more competitive, stay in plays with them. Our guards are going to need to rebound defensively a little bit more. But they’re a good rebounding team. That’s a strength of theirs. That’s not necessarily a great strength of ours, and so we’re not going to all of a sudden become the best rebounding team in the country, but we’ve got to be more competitive there.

But we’ve got to get our strengths to shine a little bit.

Q. Do you still feel pretty good going back home already having one in hand with two at home coming up?

BRIAN AGLER: You know, I’m glad we won a game. I don’t really — as much as you sit back, and I’ve been not really involved in a series whether it’s NBA or WNBA or whatever and you’re sitting back and saying, well, that team has got to win on the road, that’s going to be very important, and it is, there’s no question about it, but from my seat now, I don’t really look at it that way. I just sort of focus on the next game, and before the first game I was just focusing on that one. Tonight I was just focusing on this one.

Our focus right now is to win one more game. That’s what we want to do. We want to win one more game, and then we’ll see where we stand and we’ll go from there.

Q. You mentioned the third quarter. What do you think was working for you in the third that wasn’t working overall in the game?

BRIAN AGLER: Well, I thought we were getting good ball pressure. I thought we were — I don’t know how — I thought both teams really come out a little bit soft maybe and turned it over, both teams, and then all of a sudden I thought we started getting some stops and scored in transition, so I thought that gave us a chance to get back in. We moved the ball well, got a couple second shots, got a couple transition baskets. I thought that was how we got back in the game. But then, you know, I thought that the tide turned there.

Q. You have, I believe, three made field goals from beyond the arc the first two games with quite a few attempts from three-point range. What do you need to do to improve those numbers going forward?

BRIAN AGLER: Well, I mean, I hope we can make some of them. You know, like there’s a couple shots Kristi had wide open and just didn’t make. We’ve got some other people that are pretty good shooters, have been all year long statistically that can hit those shots. So I don’t know — I do think this: I think we have to adjust. I don’t know if we want to take 20 threes, but I also know that my approach is you take what the defense gives you, too, and so in a lot of cases they were giving us that shot tonight.

Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver

Q. Nneka, it was real tight for the first quarter and a half. What kind of allowed them do you think to really kind of pull ahead there and take control of the game?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: We weren’t getting stops, you know? And if you’re not getting stops, then you have to take the ball out, then we have to get into our half-court offense, and that’s not what we wanted to do. But we made it — we made it less difficult than in Game 1 for them to get what they wanted. I think it had a lot to do with our effort, you know?

And not to say that we don’t want it, but when you get tired, when things are muddled and you’re not focusing at what you’re doing, a lot of times confusion can — confusion can seep in, and I think that’s kind of what happened.

Q. Nneka, Minnesota really pounded the offensive side of the glass tonight, got a lot of second-chance points, and used that to pull away. How aggressive were they, and how do you think they outworked you in that area?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: Yeah, they were extremely aggressive. I think that we tried our best to do a good job to make the shots difficult or score how we wanted them to score, but the play isn’t over until you secure the rebound, and because we weren’t able to secure the rebound, it gave them a lot of second-chance points that we didn’t allow in the first game, especially down the stretch. We were able to cut it short a little bit because we were getting stops, but they were able to kind of spread the lead a little bit, as well, here and there in the second half with their second opportunities, and that’s been a point of emphasis for our team this whole year. There’s nothing more that you can say about that than just rebound.

Q. Tonight we had a sell-out crowd just shy of 13,000. The crowd was a little louder. Did that impact your communication on the floor?


Q. Kristi, not just you but most of the team other than Nneka struggled to score tonight. Can you describe whether this was just one of those nights that shots weren’t falling for you or whether there was something that they were doing specifically on the defensive side of the ball? I think Nneka is the only one who shot even 50 percent.

KRISTI TOLIVER: Well, Nneka shot about 70 percent all season, so we expect that from her. You know, both ways, I think they played tough defense. They congested where they wanted to congest. I think they were a little less physical at the point of attack and away from the ball than they were in Game 1. We were able to get a lot of back doors, a lot of kind of plan B options, and today we maybe even second-guessed thinking that we had to go to plan B when we really had plan A.

We didn’t shoot the ball that great. We had pretty good looks throughout the game, and that’s something you’ve just got to continue to take those shots. Everybody has got to take the shots when they’re open, and I think we kind of hesitated a little bit early on when we had our pick-and-pops or what have you of just trying to make another move when the initial shot was there.

You know, we’ll watch the film and we’ll regroup, but I think they did a great job defensively and offensively. For us it just wasn’t a great shooting night.

Q. Kristi, you got Game 1 obviously, so you go back with two at home here. This one got away from you, but how do you manage the highs and the lows in Minnesota here and kind of carry it forward to Los Angeles?

KRISTI TOLIVER: Yeah, it’s a series. I said after Game 3 when we lost in Chicago that we weren’t going to sweep them and we’re not going to sweep now in The Finals. We’re still a confident group. We still feel good. We came here to do what we want to do, and that was to get one. We feel pretty good about that, and now we need to take care of business at home. If we can defend our home court, and we’ve been good at home all season long, you know, I think good things are going to happen.

Obviously Minnesota is a very extremely experienced team. They have a lot of playoff experience, a lot of Finals experience, and they want four, and I think we know that as a team. But we want one. It’s going to continue to be a battle. It’s going to be highly competitive. I know we’re going to compete our asses off, and it’s going to be a fight.

I think nobody is putting their head down. Today obviously wasn’t our best showing, but we know we’re better than what we showed today. It’s going to be competitive, and we’re looking forward to it.

Q. On a night when Candace is struggling with her shot, when she’s 3 for 11 and she’s trying but it’s not working, how do you guys flow? She’s such a big part of what you do; how do you manage that?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: For me, I mean, with my relationship with Candace, I just try and talk to her, and I try to make things easier for her. I was trying to tell her to keep being aggressive. A lot of times when your shot isn’t falling like that, sometimes you just have to drive it in even if you don’t really see a lane, yeah, and we weren’t really able to do that. There were points in time when she was able to kind of get something. Maybe it was too physical inside for her to be able to finish easily. But I just tried to stay in her ear, yeah.

KRISTI TOLIVER: Yeah, I mean, I think we overall can all do better with everyone. When somebody is struggling, not getting the things that they want, I mean, I know as a point guard I can put her in a better position to be successful. That kind of bugs me a little bit right now just knowing that I think I could have done a better job putting everyone in better places, but that’s what film is for, and we’re going to regroup, and she’s going to come back feeling good on Friday.

Yeah, we just — everybody just kind of has to do a better job of helping one another. Sometimes it’s hard in an environment like this, and it just feels like everything is going a mile a minute. You kind of just have to take a pause sometimes, and I think today we didn’t take that pause.

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