Los Angeles Sparks a win away from 2017 championship, take 2-1 series lead over Minnesota Lynx
LOS ANGELES – The last time the Los Angeles Sparks won back-to-back WNBA titles was 2001 and 2002. The Sparks are just one win away earning from consecutive championships again after defeating the Minnesota Lynx 75-64 in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center Friday night in the third matchup in the best-of-five 2017 WNBA Finals series.
Los Angeles led, wire-to-wire, never relinquishing their advantage. The game is in the books now and both teams are now fixated on the next contest.
“We’re just focusing on game four right now,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler postgame.
Like they did in their game one win, the Sparks started off strong, rattling off the first four points, all courtesy of forward Nneka Ogwumike. After a clutch three-pointer from guard Chelsea Gray at 4:28, the Sparks had a nine-point lead, 13-4.
A put-back layup from center Jantel Lavender gave Los Angeles a double-digit lead late in the period that was only cut to nine by the end of the first ten minutes.
The Lynx had trouble getting a shot to go in the basket shooting just 28.6 percent from the field in the first quarter compared to 50 percent by the Sparks. The Sparks defense held Minnesota to just eight points in the first quarter and forced the Lynx into four turnovers.
Foul trouble for Maya Moore also hurt Minnesota as the star forward accumulated two in the first quarter and ended the first half with three.
However, the Lynx fared better in the second period, outscoring Los Angeles 18-15, but that effort was not enough to help them overcome the Sparks. Overall in the first half, Los Angeles shot 14-32 (43.8 percent) from the floor while Minnesota connected 9-29 (31 percent) from the field. The Sparks led by six points at halftime, 32-26.
The teams were nearly evenly matched offensively in the third quarter with Los Angeles putting up 24 points compared to 22 by the Lynx. Late in the third quarter, Riquna Williams nailed a 3-pointer for her first bucket of the game and gave the Sparks a 10-point lead, 50-40.
Three of the Sparks starters reached double figures in the 3rd quarter, Odyssey Sims (13), Candace Parker (11) and Ogwumike (10). Los Angeles went into the fourth quarter with 56-48 lead.
The Lynx were undaunted and blasted into the last ten minutes with a 7-0 run that put them within one point of the Sparks. However, the proximity did not last as Los Angeles began to answer Minnesota shot for shot and went on a 10-2 run that put them ahead by double digits again, 68-57, with 1:52 left the game.
Four Sparks players scored in the last 58 seconds of the contest and the Sparks won with the largest margin of victory so far in the Finals series. Los Angeles won the first game by just one point, 85-84, and the Lynx took the second with a two-point margin, 70-68.
The Sparks defense held 2017 WNBA MVP Sylvia Fowles to only six points in the final three quarters of the game.
Sims and Ogwumike finished with 16 points each. Oguwmike also pulled down 10 rebounds to give her a double-double. Chelsea Gray scored 14 points and dished out seven assists. Parker contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocks.
Only two Lynx starters scored in double figures. Moore had 16 points. She fouled out with 37.2 seconds left in the game. Fowles scored 15 and earned 11 rebounds. Renee Montgomery came off the bench for 12 points.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was succinct in her assessment of why her team faltered.
“A more active LA team, an anemic offense that was not prepared for how hard the game was going to be,” Reeve said. “Our starters didn’t compete in the way that we had hoped that we would start the game. LA set the tone on those guys, and we just couldn’t get responses from them.”
With the possibility of a winning a championship at home, Parker opined on how important it is for her team to stay focused heading into game four.
“You know, I think that this team is mature enough to realize how important it is to play possession by possession,” she said. “You know, we can learn from our experiences in the past, and we’re mature enough to understand that you can’t go out there and try to swing for the fences and hit the home run at the beginning of the game. You’ve got to take it possession by possession, and just as the first two games as evidence, one possession in the first half is no more or less important than it is in the second.”
The series resumes Sunday, Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.
- Los Angeles starters scored 28 points while the Sparks defense held the Lynx starters to 9 points in the first half.
- The Sparks finished the game connecting on 27-63 (42.9 percent) from the field compared to the Lynx 25-62 (40.3 percent).
- Odyssey Sims extended her playoff double-figure point streak to six games with her 16 points tonight.
- Los Angeles outrebounded Minnesota (34-27) for the first time this series.
- The Sparks starters combined for 64 of the Sparks 75 points: Ogwumike (16), Sims (16), Gray (14), Parker (13), and Beard (5).
- Sims missed her first free throw at 6:18 in the fourth quarter, since August 13th at New York Liberty. During that stretch Sims was 34-34 from the free throw line.