Lynx Editorial Assistant
Featured: Western Conference Finals
There was a lot of noise surrounding the Western Conference finals, a matchup of Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and the defending champion Minnesota Lynx versus Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver and the No. 2 Los Angeles Sparks.
The Lynx barely escaped with a win in the deciding game of their semifinal series with fourth-ranked Seattle and battled through three grueling games, while the Sparks flexed their muscles in a sweep of the No. 3 San Antonio Silver Stars. Los Angeles's two semifinal games weren't blowouts, but the Sparks were where they wanted to be offensively, scoring 194 points between the two contests. Add in the difference in rest -- the Lynx had just one day in between their series finale with Seattle and their opening game against L.A., which they used to practice, while the Sparks had four days in between games -- and it's not surprising that many picked Los Angeles as their favorite to win the opening game, and some the series.
The Lynx responded to the chatter by beating a tough Sparks team by 17 points (94-77) on Thursday at Target Center in game one.
Maya Moore went 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers, and had a team-high 20 points on the night; Rebekkah Brunson posted another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive boards); Seimone Augustus had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds; and Lindsay Whalen had 12 points and led the offense admirably despite a bum wrist and finger.
It was clear that they were feeling it, and although Candace Parker had her usual 25 points and 11 rebounds, the Sparks couldn't seem to slow the Lynx down, nor did they match their efforts.
"I know in the first two quarters we were not rebounding the missed shots very well, and that is a part of it," said Sparks coach Carol Ross. "You just have players making plays, and we could not score. Our defense was going to have to get a stop every trip, because we were completely anemic on the offensive end."
The Sparks' players aren't satisfied with Thursday's effort either and have said they're determined to step it up on their home court Sunday.
"What you can expect on Sunday is a better showing by the Sparks," said DeLisha Milton-Jones. "Tonight we had a lot of breakdowns on both ends of the floor, and when you're playing against a team that is loaded like the Minnesota Lynx are, and are defending champions like they are, you are going to put yourself into a world of trouble. We made a lot of mistakes tonight that they capitalized off of, and we have to give them credit because they did just what they were supposed to do -- make baskets out of our mistakes and punish us for every one of them. But on Sunday, we're definitely going to be a much more mentally prepared team."
Veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin has been down this road, and she knows that what the Sparks are promising in game two is likely to be delivered. With game two on the Lynx's minds, home court advantage is something they haven't underestimated the benefit of, and they know they'll have to play with an even higher level of intensity than they did on Thursday.
"Don’t fooled by what we did," said McWilliams-Franklin. "L.A. is a great team. They’re going to make changes, start attacking, doing a lot of great things that made them successful during the regular season. And we’re going to have to be even better than we were tonight. You’re at home, you play looser, you’re happy. You slept in your own bed. You come out [to] your home fans. L.A. has lost one game at home. We’ve lost one game at home. And we split [our regular season games]. "We have to forget this game at home. It was great, we were home with our fans, but we have to forget it and act like this next game is the first game."
Maya Moore agreed that the Lynx need to elevate their efforts to pick up a win in Los Angeles, sweep the series and advance to the WNBA finals. "We want to carry that [sense of urgency] to the road," said Moore. "We know we're going to need that on the road, most definitely. … The energy you saw us play with is who we are and who we want to be."
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