Lynx 87 (20-6) - Sparks 68 (10-15)


PAUL CRARY
Lynx Writer


Box Score

How it Happened
They did it. After beating the Los Angeles Sparks, 87 to 68, on Saturday night, the Minnesota Lynx on clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2004. With the win, the Lynx improved to 20-6 on the season, best in the WNBA.

Minnesota found themselves down early, as Candace Parker scored 10 points in the first quarter alone, putting the Sparks up 20-14 after the first period.

That resilient Lynx team quickly put the first quarter behind them and didn’t look back.

Head coach Cheryl Reeve turned to her bench for a spark after the dismal first period. The bench delivered. Reserve guard Candice Wiggins hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the second quarter. On the very next play, Rookie Maya Moore connected with another trey-bomb to give the Lynx a quick 9-0 run to start the second quarter, forcing Sparks head coach Joe Bryant to call a timeout. Ultimately, the Lynx went on a dominating 32-14 run in the second quarter. After the run, the Lynx were up 46-38 at halftime.

As the Lynx headed into the locker room, one could sense that this was Minnesota’s night. The Target Center crowd of 8,816 knew that if the Lynx were able to hold on to the suddenly comfortable lead then the Lynx would officially be playoff-bound.

Behind the sharp shooting of Seimone Augustus (17 points) and the slashing ability of Monica Wright (11 points) the Lynx were able to cruise to 87-68 win in the second half on Saturday night. After the game, a video displayed on the Jumbotron described the long awaited playoff berth with large text; As Lynx fans watched the video they stood up in unison and gave a raucous, standing ovation.

The wait is over. The Minnesota Lynx are not only the first team in the WNBA to clinch a spot in the playoffs this season, but they also looked poised for a deep-playoff run. The exceptional play Minnesota displayed tonight and throughout this entire season so far cannot be ignored. Clinching the playoffs looks to be just the first step of many for the 20-6 Lynx.

Quotable
“It isn’t the goal. For us it was a forgone conclusion that we were going to make the playoffs. We’ve got such bigger goals in mind but we do understand the excitement for the franchise because it hasn’t been done very often,” Coach Cheryl Reeve said after clinching a playoff spot.

Leader of the Pack
In her post-game interview Candice Wiggins said she shot 1,000 shots yesterday during her off-day. The extra hard work paid off as Wiggins scored 13 points off the bench and jumpstarted the otherwise sluggish Lynx offense at the beginning of the game.

“Yesterday, we had an off-day, I came in the gym and shot one thousand shots. 500 mid-range and 500 three-pointers. I shot them on the shooting machine. I told myself ‘I shot one thousand yesterday, Candice, you come in the game and just concentrate and just knock them down, it’s going to help.’” Wiggins said about her individual voluntary workout.

The Numbers Game
The Lynx like to use their defense to create their offense whenever they face the Sparks. Coming into tonight’s game the Lynx averaged 23.5 points off of turnovers per game in their four matchups with Los Angeles. The Lynx yet again feasted off of Los Angeles turnovers, scoring 21 points off 17 Sparks turnovers on Saturday night.

Highlight to Remember
With just under three minutes left in the first half, Seimone Augustus caught the ball at the top of the key. With the shot clock winding down, Augustus relied on her lethal offensive repertoire to create a shot. The All-Star guard used a double-between-the-legs-crossover with Jordan-esque smoothness and created separation from her defender and swished a 16-footer. As the ball went in, “oooohs and ahhhhs” echoed throughout the Target Center in amazement.

Looking Ahead
The Lynx will travel to Tulsa to take on the 1-22 Tulsa Shock on Tuesday at 7 PM CDT. Don’t expect the Lynx to look past the lowly Shock as Coach Reeve is determined to finish the season with the best record in the WNBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

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