Los Angeles, CA — Before the game started, I predicted a win for Los Angeles. Not because I watched and reported on them playing two months ago, but the Sparks have many weapons in the Los Angeles arsenal. The weapons are like a web because there isn’t any selfishness and they never stop. Don’t get me wrong though because the Lynx have strong players as well.
However, the missing key, in my opinion, was the three-point line. Lindsay Whalen knocked some down for Minnesota, but I’m talking about other than her and the occasional Maya Moore triple.
For example, in the first quarter Candace Parker was at the three-point line and used a shot fake and one dribble to get to the lane. After the miss, Essence Carson came out of nowhere and tipped it back in. Knowing each other’s personnel goes a long way in basketball and the Sparks have a unique flow.
The Lynx defense was tough in the first quarter, but after that, they allowed way too many open shots. With the Sparks, you can’t give them too much space because the guards are shooters, but at the same time, they are able to throw it inside to Parker or Nneka Ogwumike. Before tonight it was a question whether Ogwumike would even be playing in tonight’s game due to illness. Not only did she battle through, she was Los Angeles’ second-leading scoring with 19 points and pulled down five rebounds.
On the flip side, Minnesota looked rattled. Usually steady and on point, some of Whalen’s passes tonight were questionable and surprisingly slow to Sylvia Fowles. It looked as though her chemistry with her teammates was off tonight. But it wasn’t only Whalen who struggled as a few of her teammates were careless with the ball, too. Some of them made the mistake of forcing the ball inside to Fowles when it wasn’t there which resulted in unnecessary turnovers.
Despite the Lynx having early miscues with the ball, they still held the lead – which kept the crowd quiet in the second period. The Sparks defense started getting a little complacent allow Minnesota to pull away. But, with two minutes before halftime, Los Angeles decided to go on a run. At intermission, they held the advantage over Minnesota, 40-37.
In the third quarter, the Sparks defense intensified and they started to put on a show from the three-point line. They also stopped allowing easy layups for the Lynx. Not only was Los Angeles able to knock down threes, but could use their inside presence to their advantage as well. Everything was favoring the Sparks as Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray repeatedly knocked in the long-range shot, or Ogwumike kissing the ball off the glass in the paint.
Minnesota refused to lay down though, as they started to be more patient on offense. Eventually, they were able to get the ball inside to Fowles who scored regardless of how many defenders she faced. If it wasn’t her scoring, Temi Fagbenle’s relentless play was scoring for the Lynx.
Still, though, I was mesmerized by the cuts and movement the Sparks had on offense. Everything was flowing for the home team.
The game was a treat though to see two rivals battle it out in a single elimination game. Even more so, it was a pleasure to attend and watch Lindsay Whalen play in her last WNBA game.
Gray led Los Angeles to its first-round playoff win with 26 points with a hot-handed 4-of-8 from the three-point line along with six assists. Behind her, Ogwumike finished with 19 and Williams chipped in with 17, nine of which came from the three-point line.
Fowles led Minnesota with a double-double of 18 points, 12 rebounds. Whalen finished her last game with nine points, one block, two steals, two turnovers, five assists, and five rebounds.
Los Angeles will now face Washington in the second round on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 pm ET on ESPN2.
What a GAME! Chelsea Gray PUT ON A SHOW for Los Angeles Sparks! Follow us on Instagram: @theballout
Posted by The Ball Out on Tuesday, 21 August 2018