Postgame Quotes: WNBA Finals Game 3

Head Coach Brian Agler, Los Angeles Sparks

Agler: I thought it was a hard-fought game. Both teams competed hard. I think we’re fortunate to have fought off their charge there in the third or fourth quarter. Try to get rested up and get ready for Sunday.

Q: What do you think the difference was when you guys were able to create separation, especially in that fourth quarter when Minnesota made the run? What do you feel like the difference was in that moment?

Agler: You know, they went with a small lineup, and it put a lot of different — every time you make a change, and they did some great things, their small lineup caused us some problems, put a different kind of pressure on us because they’re putting Maya Moore in different spots with shooters around her, where it’s difficult to get Alana or Essence support, and you still have to play in plays with fouls.
They made a nice run there, hitting some shots. You know, I thought we eliminated second shots, which helped us. Made some good plays, got ourselves to the free-throw line, which was big, and kept our turnovers down.

Q: You had to be very pleased tonight with the hustle plays, especially with the loose balls on the floor with your team tonight.

Agler: Yeah, we were just talking about that in the locker room, that a lot of the intangible things that happened in these games are just as important as the X’s and the O’s. You know, we had several people chase down long rebounds, loose balls, which helped us quite a bit. You know, it’s just happy that we played the way we did, competed hard. Both teams competed really hard.
But now we’re just focusing on Game 4 right now.

Q: Coach, down the stretch when you guys ran L with Candace in the high post and Alana cutting to the basket, it gave you guys that basket and one, how much do you think that play in particular helped give you the momentum you needed to close the game?

Agler: Yeah, I don’t even know what the score was. I know it was tight. The game was closing down. We needed to have a really good possession, and you know, we just tried to keep it really simple late in the game. Alana made a nice cut and Candace made a nice pass, and the basket area was open, Alana finished it.

Q: What did you like about what you guys did in defending Maya Moore in that first half? Obviously she got in foul trouble and was held scoreless in that time, and what was the difference in the second half when she kind of got going there?

Agler: Well, I mean, the foul trouble — I always enjoy watching Alana defend great players. I mean, even if she gets scored on, you know she’s doing everything possible to stay in the play. And Maya in the second half really made some great shots, some just real good poised one-on-one moves, jump shots, mid-range and threes. I thought we tried to stay in plays with her early. Obviously the foul trouble helped our situation where it was forced to take her out of the game. I don’t know — I can’t tell you we played great defense on her because she didn’t play that much. You’ve just got to try to fight, you know, and stay in plays with these really, really good players, and they’ve got several of them.

Q: Coach Reeve talked about the team which came out most aggressive first has been the team to set the tone. What did you do tonight and in Game 1 maybe that your team didn’t do in Game 2?

Agler: I don’t know if I did anything differently. I try to be as consistent as possible. I just think a lot of it has to do with sense of urgency. A lot of it has to do with — I really think in these games, you get in a series, team wins, everybody gets phone calls, texts, telling them how good they are, patting them on the back, all that. Not just our team, I think it happens to all teams, and it softens you up. It loses your focus. You know, our team and Minnesota, we’re — I mean, we all have our — both teams have their strengths. We’re both, as everybody can see, it’s highly contested games every time we play. There’s not a lot of room for error.
You know, the intangibles and the focus that you have and the ability to play to your scout and then your good players have to make good plays, big plays. Tonight was our night, and I think both teams will just really try to stay focused ready for Sunday.

Q: How would you evaluate the play of your bench tonight, specifically Riquna Williams, who played a couple more minutes than she has in Games 1 and 2?

Agler: Yeah, Riquna gave us some good minutes tonight. Essence was solid for us, Jantel was solid for us. I was happy with the way those three played, and we’ll need that, if not more, on Sunday.

Q: This is the first game in which the Sparks have controlled the glass. Was that a point of emphasis for you coming into this game, and what adjustment did you make that enabled them to box out and get the board?

Agler: Yeah, I don’t think we made an adjustment. Against Minnesota it’s always a point of emphasis to — we’ve got to put our best foot forward in our rebounding because they’re one of the best rebounding teams if not the best rebounding team in the league.


Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What happened with the blow to the face you took in the fourth quarter?

Ogwumike: Yeah, she [Sylvia Fowles] was going for the rebound and her hand hit me. I’m actually about to get some stitches.

Q: On Minnesota’s third-quarter run:

Ogwumike: They came out and made their push but I thought we really maintained our composure. We had a couple turnovers and they hit a few threes but we have to stay locked in on defense, when they go smaller. You have to.   

Q: Alana Beard said one of the things Brian [Agler] told you last year was you were trying to win a championship instead of winning a game. Do you draw on that because this is basically the same situation? 

Ogwumike: That was the quote of the series last year. Yes, absolutely. You have to take it moment by moment. Right now we’re focused on getting rest and coming in tomorrow to have a good practice and watching some video. It’s really just a moment by moment type of thing. We’re just trusting the process.   


Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What was the mindset of the team coming out aggressive and holding them to 8 points in the first quarter?

Beard: That was the mindset to come out aggressive and to make it hard on them, whether it was offensively or defensively. We executed and we stayed the course. 

Q: What was the team’s mindset on defense, being able to frustrate Maya Moore in the first half and hold Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus scoreless?

Beard: Just staying in place and making it difficult as possible. I think when we get pressure on the point guard it makes it tough for them to get into their sets. They’re a team that’s all about timing. When you allow them to run their plays and have timing and pace with everything they do, they’re going to kill you. It’s our goal to come out and make it tough. 

Q: I know you want to stay in the moment but you’re one game away from winning another championship, with the next game at home. What are your thoughts about that? 

Beard: Taking the next day to do our prep. Watching the game, making adjustments within that game and come in focused and ready to play. We talk a lot about surrendering the outcome and just staying in the moment. So hopefully that’s what each individual can do and whatever happens, happens.


Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: How do you avoid not making the same mistake of not closing Minnesota out at home?

Gray: I think our goal is just to do the things that makes us successful, which is to focus on winning the game and staying in the moment. 

Q: What would it mean for you to be back-to-back champions? 

Gray: It will be amazing. Amazing for the city and for the program because we worked so hard for it. 

Q: You hit a lot of big shots for the team tonight, can you talk about your mindset?

Gray: That one three-pointer in the fourth quarter, Alana set one heck of a screen and it was a beautiful pass from Candace. When my teammates make me look good, I have to knock it down.

Q: You guys came out aggressive, holding them to eight points in the first quarter. Was that the game plan?

Gray: Definitely, we wanted to be the aggressor, both defensively and offensively, and I think we started the game like that and we just have to do that for 40 minutes.

Q: We’re all aware of your offensive game but defensively, you all were able to frustrate Maya Moore and hold Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus scoreless. Can you talk about the team’s defense? 

Gray: We have to stay in place with their scorers. The ycan hit shots and tough shots, even when we’re playing defense, so I think we have to stay in place and be focused.   


Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: You talked about some things that had to happen before the game. Not a lot of that stuff happened in terms of not getting deflected passes and getting good shots. What did you see at the start?

Reeve: Exactly as you said. A more active LA team, an anemic offense that was not prepared for how hard the game was going to be. Our starters didn’t compete in the way that we had hoped that we would start the game. LA set the tone on those guys, and we just couldn’t get responses from them.

Q: You had three of your starters not score at all in the first half, and two of them not score in the whole game, and yet you were within one point midway through the fourth quarter. Do you take heart in that?

Reeve: Well, it depends on what you choose to focus on. It’s hard to win WNBA finals game without your star players. In this series we’ve seen the team that has the starters that outplay the other starters wins the game, so we do find that important. However, I am really appreciative of the group that was in there and battling and giving us a chance to win the game. Our defense gave us a chance for sure, and in that group that you saw kind of turn the tide a little bit, trying to win the game with a rookie, rookie point guard, and that was playing more, too, I had to go small.
I have an appreciation for what that group did. They gave us a chance to be in the game at the end.

Q: You had cut the lead to 59-57; what did they do or what did your team not do where you could tie them and maybe make the run?

Reeve: Well, if I remember correctly, we had a really good possession where we had about four shots on goal that I thought were all good shots. We couldn’t get one to go down, and then LA executed their offense, again, if I remember correctly, it was a big three on the backside. They screened our backside. Not new, we were not alert to it, so bad combination. We just couldn’t convert with the number of shots that
we had and then gave up a three, and then it was kind of hard from there to play catch-up.

Q: You say the three, and then they seemed to be getting some lay-ups.

Reeve: Yeah.

Q: That happened like in the first quarter a lot; did you make an adjustment to try to cut that down and then they came back and figured a way?

Reeve: Yeah, I mean, I think what happens, especially when you’re playing off of our offense, that’s what LA thrives on. They thrive on being in the paint. They thrive on getting lay-ups. They were very, very persistent, a combination of when we didn’t score, getting back and making sure we can get our defense set in lock-down mode, and as I said, we gave up some lay-ups, and that’s certainly not the goal.


Alexis Jones, Minnesota Lynx

Q: On playing in her first Finals game:

Jones: I just went out there with confidence and wanted to make sure was doing what I was supposed to be doing – being me. Making sure I could help the team out and guard somebody.

Q: You had some wide-open shots. Was your mindset if you’re wide open to just fire away?

Jones: I mean I was doing what I do best. Making sure that if I was open to try to knock down the shots. To just help the team.

 Q: Playing in the fourth quarter, does that give you more confidence that coach had you in the game at that point?

Jones: It just shows that she had confidence in me. That she trusts in me. I just needed to make sure that I stepped up when my name was called.

 Q: On the 20-9 run in the third quarter and her key three-pointers:

Jones: My teammates just trusted me to knock down shots. They passed to me when I was open and they trusted in me to knock down shots when I’m open.


Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Q: This series has had a ton of comebacks. You guys almost tied it up. What was the difference down the stretch?

Fowles: They were more persistent. I think us not being able to get the shots that we want on offense and they utilized it on the other end going the opposite way. I think that was the difference down the line – our turnovers, five-second calls, stuff like that.

Q: What your team’s mindset going into Game 4?

Fowles: Win. Win and take it back to Minny (Minneapolis). That’s the only thing I’m thinking about – how we can get this win here in Game 4 and take it back home.

Q: Does winning Game 4 last year give you any confidence?

Fowles: We have to win Game 4. I’m not even focusing on Game 5 right now…Going into Game 4, it’s going to be hard. That’s what the Finals is about. We can’t make any excuses for ourselves. We just have to find a way to get it done.

Q: Any specific adjustments you can think of right now?

Fowles: We’ll watch film tomorrow and go from there.

Q: What does it say about this team that you guys came back to make it a close game again?

Fowles: I think our defense gave us a lot of help. Then of course, we had people came off the bench who kept us in the game. Those are things that helped to keep us in the game.