Minnesota clinched its second consecutive playoff berth with tonight's victory, ending an 18-game regular-season losing streak against Los Angeles that dated to an 86-73 Lynx win on June 24, 1999 at the Great Western Forum (the clubs' first-ever meeting). Minnesota had dropped its previous eight visits to L.A., including an 0-6 regular-season mark at Staples Center. The Lynx defeated Los Angeles, 74-72, in Game 1 of their 2003 WNBA Playoffs series (Aug. 28 at Target Center), before the Sparks rebounded to win Games 2 and 3 at home.
Tonight's win was Minnesota's 18th of the season, tying the franchise mark set a year ago (18-16) and securing a winning record for the second time in club history. The Lynx also improve to 7-9 away from Target Center, equaling their most road wins ever in a single season (7-9 in 1999, 7-9 in 2000, 7-10 in 2003). Minnesota is assured of finishing with at least a share of the WNBA's third-best record this year, behind only L.A. and Seattle.
The Sparks lost for only the second time at Staples Center this year, and the first since suffering a 79-70 setback against Sacramento on July 17 (halting an eight-game home winning streak). Los Angeles finishes 15-2 at home, one victory shy of the franchise single-season mark; they went 16-0 in 2001 and 15-1 in 2000. Overall, the loss was just L.A.'s third in its last 19 outings, after opening the year 8-6. Heading into Saturday's finale at Seattle the Sparks have compiled a regular-season record of 129-34 (.791).
The final 12-point spread represents Los Angeles' biggest regular-season home loss since Aug. 9, 1999, when Detroit posted an 84-59 triumph at the Great Western Forum; the Sparks were dealt an 80-60 loss by Sacramento in the 2001 Playoffs (Aug. 26).
The Lynx pick up their second double-digit road win of the season, having beaten Connecticut 68-52 on July 22. After starting out 1-6 away from Target Center, Minnesota has won six of its last nine road starts.
Minnesota's 78-point outburst is its high total since beating Sacramento (83-73 in OT) on July 11, and equals its second-highest-scoring regulation game of the season (85 at Seattle, May 20). The Lynx had topped 70 just once in their prior 14 outings and started the current road trip averaging 54.5 ppg in losses at Charlotte and Houston. On the other end, Minnesota has allowed only one of its last 15 opponents to top 70 points; the Lynx rank second in the WNBA in both scoring defense (64.2 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (40.6%).
The Lynx tied a season high by handing out 21 assists at Los Angeles, with all five starters being credited with at least three assists. Minnesota also whittled its turnovers to 15, after averaging 23.0 TOs in the previous three games (including 26 vs. Seattle last Friday).
The Lynx outrebounded L.A. 36-33, equaling a franchise record with 30 defensive boards; they've compiled a +3.0 rpg advantage (31.7-28.7) on the current trip.
Minnesota finished 8-for-15 (53.3%) from three-point range; the Lynx have won nine straight when hitting 30%+ from beyond the arc. Amber Jacobs sank all three of her long-range attempts to finish with nine points, and also grabbed four rebounds; the Lynx are 10-3 when she makes a three-pointer.
Minnesota's rookies combined for 44 points, led by Nicole Ohlde's game-high 19. It's the fifth time this month Ohlde has been the Lynx' top scorer; she's tallying 14.9 ppg (48.7%) in September. Vanessa Hayden scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half, and added a season-high nine rebounds; she's averaging 15.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg through three games of the current road trip.
Los Angeles rookie Christi Thomas registered her first point/rebound double-double of the year, finishing with 11 points and a game- and season-high 10 boards. Tamika Whitmore came off the bench to lead the Sparks with a season-high 18 points, while Nikki Teasley matched her season best by handing out 10 assists. Lisa Leslie was held to nine points before fouling out; she entered the game averaging 26.0 ppg in six previous September starts.