Game 1: Lynx Roll Past Sparks 94-77
Web Editorial Associate
Although the Lynx scraped by with a win Tuesday night to take their semifinals series over the Storm, tonight was a different story, as they made it look easy against the No. 2 Sparks, cruising to a 94-77 win in game one of the Western Conference Finals at Target Center.
During the first quarter, it looked as though Lynx would have another shot-for-shot battle similar to their semifinal games against the Storm, and they ended the quarter up only one point, 16-15. But they opened it up in the second quarter, draining 3-pointers and converting Sparks miscues to fast break points. They lead the Sparks by as many as 20 points in the second, finishing the half up 48-31 and carrying that energy through the second half.
Maya Moore had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, while Seimone Augustus had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Rebekkah Brunson posted yet another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lynx and Sparks shot nearly identical percentages, the Lynx at 48.8 percent and the Sparks at 48.3 percent. But Minnesota held L.A.’s second-leading scorer Kristi Toliver to 12 points in contrast to her average 26, and the Lynx's reserves added 26 points while the Sparks' bench had 15.
Candace Parker was one of few bright spots for the Sparks as she recorded 25 points and 11 rebounds. Alana Beard had 16 points.
Leader of the Pack: Rebekkah Brunson
Brunson has been a staple of the Lynx's play on both ends of the floor through the season this year, especially during the postseason, averaging 16 points and 11.3 rebounds through their four playoff games and putting up a double-double in all but one. Tonight her 14 points and 10 rebounds helped propel the Lynx to a second quarter lead, and her five offensive rebounds helped the Lynx to a crushing 20-2 advantage over the Sparks in second-chance points.
"Rebekkah has just been huge for us, so it was nice to see her kind of continue," Reeve said. "She's really locked into what we're trying to get for her both defensively and offensively. In that first half, she was big. She was in the hustle plays, and just her play around the basket, we knew that she would be available versus some switching. She had guards on her down there, and she was really hungry for the ball, and it made [for] some great finishes."
Her teammate Lindsay Whalen agreed. "She’s just unbelievable on the boards," Whalen said. "She’s had an unbelievable season and stretch here. She’s making shots, being aggressive, getting all those loose balls. [When] you take your shot, you have confidence that, even if you miss it, she’s going to get the ball."
Highlight of the Game
With 3:42 remaining in the first half, Candice Wiggins brought the ball up the floor and drove into the lane. Fighting congestion, she dished to Taj McWilliams-Franklin on the elbow, who spotted Maya Moore waiting on the 3-point line. Not usually one for flashy play, fans loved McWilliams-Franklin's backwards pass over her head to Moore, who drained the three. The play gave the Lynx a 34-20 advantage and forced a Sparks timeout.
The Numbers Game
The Lynx held a 37-25 rebounding advantage, including 13-4 on the offensive boards. ... Minnesota went 9-for-21 from three (42.9 percent), while L.A. was 5-for-13 (38.5 percent). ... The Sparks were good at getting to the line tonight with 23 free throw opportunities to the Lynx's six. ... The Lynx had a 46-34 advantage in points in the paint.
"It's something that we've been preparing for the entire season. We try to have that mindset in every single game that we play, that sense of urgency. And it's not easy. It's definitely something that has to come from within, and you have to have good leaders that set a tone. I'm fortunate enough to be on a team that has leaders and coaches that put that pressure on us and put that pressure on themselves. And then our bench coming in and bringing that energy -- it was just an all-around group feeling of, 'We want this right now.' We want to carry that to the road. We know we're going to need it on the road -- we've most definitely learned that, toward the end of the season that it's really tough to win on the road. We're going to have to do a little bit more than we did tonight. I can't speak for other teams, but I know for us, the energy that you saw us play with tonight is who we are and who we want to be." -- Maya Moore
The Lynx take on the Sparks for game two of the Western Conference finals this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. out in Los Angeles. The game will be broadcast by ABC. With a win on Sunday, they'll advance to the WNBA finals, but if the Sparks come out on top, game three of the series will take place back at Target Center on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.
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