2016 WNBA Finals: Three Keys To Game 2

Game 2 of the 2016 WNBA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks tips off tonight at 8 PM ET on ESPN 2. The Sparks took Game 1 in thrilling fashion on Alana Beard’s deep two at the buzzer. Before tip-off, take a quick look at three keys that will impact tonight’s game.

Winning The First Quarter

Getting off to a great start is important no matter what the endeavor, but in basketball games between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, it’s proven to be vital. In the four games these two terrific teams have played against each other in 2016, the team that has won the first quarter has gone on to win the game every time.

Game First Quarter Final
First Regular Season Game Lynx 25 – Sparks 21 Lynx 72 – Sparks 69
Second Regular Season Game Sparks 18 – Lynx 15 Sparks 94 – Lynx 76
Third Regular Season Game Lynx 26 – Sparks 18 Lynx 77 – Sparks 74
WNBA Finals Game 1 Sparks 21 – Lynx 18 Sparks 78 – Lynx 76

 

The Sparks took the first quarter 21-18 in Game 1, and as they look to win a second straight on the road, they know the importance of getting ahead in the first 10 minutes. As the MVP, Nneka Ogwumike, said today during shootaround about taking control in the opening frame, “That’s vital. Starting the game off really sets the tone. We always know they’re going to come out as aggressively as they can, but we have to match it, or do better.”

Getting Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles Involved Early

Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles each finished with 18 points in Game 1, which was right about Moore’s regular season average, and four points higher than Fowles’. But at the end of the first half, Moore was still scoreless, and Fowles had just eight points, scoring four in each of the first two frames.

It was nice for Minnesota that they both got going in the second half, but it would be better if they got going from the tip. We’ve seen already how important winning the opening frame has been in this series, and that’s why ESPN’s LaChina Robinson believes we’ll see “more intentional offense” from Minnesota. “Early in the game they weren’t getting touches for Syl and Maya,” Robinson said today at shootaround. “Those are two players who carry them on the offensive end, two key components. So when you’re playing against a team that’s the most efficient team on the offensive end, you can’t have wasted offensive possessions.”

Battle Of The Benches

All season long, the Lynx’s depth has been a key factor in their run to the number one overall seed, and as LaChina Robinson pointed out, “Coming into this series, so much talk was about how Minnesota’s bench was the advantage for them.”

In Game 1, however, it was the Sparks’ bench that proved superior. Chelsea Gray came in and provided 30 very strong minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing out four assists, including the one to Alana Beard on the game winner. While Jantel Lavender, the Sixth Woman of the Year, also had a solid game, scoring 8 points on 4-6 shooting.

Meanwhile, the Lynx’s bench scored just 8 points, as Renee Montgomery, Jia Perkins, Natasha Howard, Anna Cruz, and Janel McCarville combined to shoot 4-12 from the field.

Team Bench Points In Game 1
Los Angeles 20
Minnesota 8

 

Who will win the bench battle this time around, potentially giving their team the advantage necessary to win Game 2? Well you’ll just have to tune in to ESPN 2 at 8 PM ET to find out.