Lynx Fall To Sparks 71-63

by Megan Schuster, Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Assistants

Maya Moore came into Tuesday night’s game trailing Seimone Augustus’ franchise single-season points record by just 17. For a player that has scored 12 30+ point games this season, that seemed like a pretty simple task.

In classic fashion, though, Moore made things interesting. She scared the home crowd with an almost-ankle injury in the first quarter, tied the record in the third quarter, and came into the fourth determined to help get her team a win—and take over the scoring title in the process.

Though Minnesota led through the first three quarters of the contest, the Los Angeles Sparks were a desperate team in the fourth quarter, playing for their playoff life and positioning. Not even Moore breaking the record—she scored 20 points on the night—could bring the Lynx back, and they fell to the Sparks 71-63 on Tuesday, the team’s second straight loss.

“At any point in the season not playing our best for 40 minutes is concerning,” Moore said after the game. “We’re in control of how well we play. We have that kind of a team to where we have the ability to do so many things and we didn’t have that flow that we usually have offensively, and as leaders and as captains we’re going to fix that.”

Just over 30 seconds into the game, Maya Moore went up for the ball and and rolled her ankle in an unusual way. With only three games left in the regular season, coach Cheryl Reeve took no chances on playing Moore through a possible injury. She came out of the game, replaced by Monica Wright as she received treatment from trainers on the sideline.

Moore remained on the bench through half of the opening quarter, though she was able to walk and jump on the ankle. Reeve kept her off mainly because she just didn’t need her. Five different players tallied points in the opening three minutes of the game, and the team took a nine-point lead over Los Angeles.

Moore checked back into the game midway through the quarter and appeared to be fine as she ran the court well and hustled for each loose ball. She recorded her first points of the game with just over 3:30 to play, giving the Lynx a seven-point lead. They would stay up on the Sparks through the rest of the quarter, and finished the first with a 19-14 lead.

The Lynx passing clinic continued, as 13 of the team’s first 16 made shots were assisted. And, as the team shared the ball so successfully, that gave some of the reserve players new offensive opportunities. Eight different Lynx players scored through the first half, and no one player had over eight points.

The Sparks refused to lie down in the quarter, and they came back to tie things up with just over four minutes to play in the half. They were led by Kristi Toliver’s nine points in the half and All-Star Nneka Ogwumike’s five rebounds.

Los Angeles didn’t take a lead through the first half, and that tie didn’t last for long. Minnesota regained the lead and took it into halftime, up 36-29 over the Sparks.

The Lynx continued their streak and took a 10-point lead quickly out of the break, looking like they might run over Los Angeles in the team’s second-to-last home game of the regular season. But the Sparks kept fighting, like they always do, and came back to take their first lead of the game with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

Moore—who needed just 17 points in the game to pass Seimone Augustus’ regular season Lynx points record—was big for her team throughout the game. She pushed Minnesota when the team looked a little sluggish in the quarter, and was the only Lynx player who had scored in double-digits going into the fourth. She finished the quarter with 16 points, tying Augustus’ record, and the Lynx led 51-49 going into the final 10 minutes of play.

Lynx vs. Sparks
Playing like a team fighting for its playoff life and positioning, the Sparks came out with desperate basketball at the start of the fourth quarter. They took back a lead from the Lynx, who did not look sharp to start this quarter. Reeve was visibly disappointed in the team’s defensive positioning and effort, and midway through the quarter, she took a timeout to regroup.

With her team down three with just over three minutes to go, Moore stepped up, positioned down low and layed the ball in, scoring her 17th and 18th points of the night and topping Augustus’ franchise single-season points record—she’d finish the game with 20.

“Individual accolades are awesome and I appreciate them,” Moore said about the record. “I’m so grateful to be in those positions, but I want to think about what’s right in front of me, and that’s bouncing back and being better however I can—as a teammate, as a leader and as a team.”

The Lynx were still down, though. Toliver had an extremely memorable game for the Sparks, scoring 29 points to lead her team, and also recording five assists and three rebounds. Candace Parker and Alana Beard both scored in double figures as well, and, despite the excitement surrounding Moore’s new record, the Sparks defeated the Lynx on Tuesday night by a final of 71-63.

“It's just one game,” Reeve said after the game. “It's back-to-back losses which is not something we're used to. We won 11 in a row and now we've lost 2 in a row. We want to finish playing good basketball down the stretch. I don't think we played our worst game tonight, but we didn't close the game out. We didn't close the game out at all.”

Leader of the Pack: Maya Moore

Moore led the Lynx with 20 points in the game. She was really the only Minnesota player that provided much energy on the offensive end. Moore was 9-for-19 from the floor and 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the loss. She was the only Lynx player in double figures.

Highlight of the Night

In what can otherwise be considered a disappointment of a game, Moore broke the record for most points in a regular season in franchise history. Moore finished with 20 points in the game and now has 773 points in the 2014 campaign. She eclipsed the previous mark of 769 points set by Seimone Augustus seven years ago.

The Numbers Game

  • Lynx fans got a scare early Tuesday night as Maya Moore appeared to roll her right ankle just 29 seconds into the game. She returned to the game later in the first quarter and didn’t show any signs of injury as she finished with 20 points in the loss.

  • Minnesota started the game 5-for-5 before its first miss Tuesday night en route to an early 13-2 lead. Los Angeles cut into the deficit as the quarter wore on and the Lynx went into the break up 19-14.

  • In the last matchup between the two teams the Sparks outrebounded the Lynx 42-33 and 20-1 on the offensive glass. Minnesota had Rebekkah Brunson back in the lineup Tuesday night and it showed as it was only outrebounded 34-30.

  • The Lynx have lost two straight for the first time all season. Minnesota still needs one more win to get to 25 wins on the season and lock up its fourth straight 25-win season.

  • Quotable

    “I’m not concerned [with the losses] snowballing because we’re in control of that. If we were a team with maybe less talent and less experience that might be a cause for concern but I know we’re absolutely going to respond.”

    -- Maya Moore on the two-game losing streak.

    Looking Ahead

    Minnesota will take this loss and travel to San Antonio for a matchup with the Stars on Friday night. The Lynx could face either the Stars or the Sparks in the first round so both games will serve as a minor tune up, as well as a sneak peek at both teams before playoffs begin.

    “San Antonio is going to be equally as hungry,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “so we've got to figure out the way we want to end this thing.”

    As of right now Los Angeles is the No. 3 seed and San Antonio is the No. 4 seed. That means if the playoffs started Tuesday night the Lynx would face off with the Sparks in the first round.