Lynx Pregame Audio
Charde Houston Audio

By Philip Rossman-Reich
Lynx Writer

Scouting Report - Lynx (10-7) vs. Sparks (4-9) 7 PM

The Lynx return to action after the All-Star break halfway to 20 wins and entrenched in third place in the Western Conference. But that does not mean a playoff spot is assured at the midpoint of the season. A very talented Los Angeles team is lurking just outside the playoff picture, only three games in the loss column behind Minnesota and two games behind San Antonio for the final playoff spot. It has been a long time since the Lynx matched up with the Sparks, an 87-76 win back on June 10 for the team's third consecutive win to start the season.

It is hard to tell what kind of team Minnesota will be playing. Lisa Leslie is still working her way back from a severe right knee strain that has caused her to miss the last eight games and missed her start in the All-Star Game on Saturday. She has been out since June 19 and while it appears she is close to coming back, that first game back can be a struggle for anybody. Los Angeles got Candace Parker back from her maternity leave at the beginning of July. She has been slow to return to form, averaging 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. But she turned in her best performance of the season to date with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Sparks' 98-87 loss to the Storm before the All-Star Break. Parker could break out of her funk and become the player that averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game her rookie year last year.

The struggles of those two superstars has led to Los Angeles' slow start to the season. But with the talent on their team, the Sparks are by no means out of it. They have been floating by with the help of All-Star Tina Thompson and Betty Lennox. Lennox leads the team with 13.9 points per game and Thompson averaged 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Sparks have struggled to win, but have a balanced scoring attack and with Parker back and Leslie waiting in the wings, can certainly surprise the Lynx. Lennox, remember, had 25 points in Los Angeles' loss at the Target Center earlier this season.

It is no secret though that the Sparks have struggled. They sit dead last in the league with 72.5 points per game. Minnesota's defense does not exactly rank higher and the team's fast pace of play should allow Los Angeles to score a little more than its average. But the Lynx should still have the weapons to defeat a struggling Sparks squad. If Thompson, Lennox and Parker all get going though, it should be a very entertaining game featuring some of the league's best scorers.

Keys To A Win For Minnesota:
--Control the boards
--Push the pace offensively
--Force LA to play half-court offense
--Play defense, don't try to outscore the stars

Matchup To Watch:
Charde Houston vs. Candace Parker

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