By Philip Rossman-Reich
Scouting Report - Lynx (11-13) at Sparks (10-13) 9:30 PM
WHERE TO WATCH: WNBA LIVE ACCESS
WHERE TO LISTEN: BOB 106 FM
When the Sparks came to the Target Center for the first game after the All-Star break, they looked like a team that could challenge the Lynx's position in the postseason. Los Angeles had only four wins at the time, but were still working Candace Parker back into the lineup and expecting the return of Lisa Leslie from injury. Minnesota was sitting at 10 wins and still firmly in control of its own destiny. Now that has changed as the Sparks have won five of the past nine games as they have slowly crept up to within a game of the Lynx. They have the same number of losses with one game in hand entering Wednesday's game at the Staples Center.
In that last matchup between the two teams, Minnesota and Los Angeles played a tight contest. But Tina Thompson scored 15 of her 30 points in the final quarter to lead the Sparks to a 76-70 victory back on July 28. The Lynx have continued to slide since that game, winning only one game since the all star break and now fighting for their playoff lives.
Los Angeles will present many difficult matchups for Minnesota. Thompson of course will be a concern. She is averaging 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season. She was carrying the squad during that stretch of games with Parker making her way back and Leslie out with a sprained right knee. Both of those players are rounding back to form and Thompson has taken something of a backseat.
Leslie is leading the team with 13.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. She is averaging 16.3 points per game in August and appears to be closing her career on a high note. Parker has been focusing more on the glass since her return from maternity leave, averaging 8.3 rebounds to lead Los Angeles while scoring only 10.4 points per game. But even Parker has started rounding out into form as she has scored 13.6 points per game in August.
With Los Angeles, it is truly pick your poison defensively. It is easy to forget with all those starts that Betty Lennox is second on the team in scoring and scored 25 points in the team's first matchup on June 10.
Despite all the scoring from the individuals, it has not translated into a strong offensive team. The Sparks only average 71.4 points per game and shoot only 40.9 percent. Their strength lies in the rebounding. Parker, Leslie and Thompson are all superb rebounders and the team is second in the league with 36.4 rebounds per game, including 10.8 offensive rebounds per game.
it is no secret that Minnesota is struggling to win right now. Coach Jen Gillom has even said the team has lost some of its confidence. But this will be a playoff game for them. The teams are even in the loss column and a defeat on the road would give Los Angeles an advantage heading down the stretch -- especially with the season series tied entering the game and one more game to be played in Los Angeles this season. A win Wednesday would go a long way to securing a playoff berth and regaining that confidence that helped the Lynx race out at the beginning of the season.
Keys To A Win For Minnesota:
--Play with confidence and urgency
--Look to run
--Prevent the big game
--Focus on rebounding
Matchup To Watch:
Nicky Anosike vs. Tina Thompson
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