The Minnesota Lynx discovered the secret to beating the L.A. Sparks Tuesday night at Target Center. All you gotta do is hold all-world post Candace Parker to 6 points on 3-of-8 shooting with 6 boards and 5 turnovers.
It only adds to the fun, then, if L.A.'s other all-star, point guard Kristi Tolliver, scores 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting while comitting 6 turnovers.
And, thank goodness, because Parker and Tolliver's teammates played plenty well enough to win with an average amount of help (which would mean about 37 points per game) from the two. Parker and Tolliver shot 4-for-15 (27 percent) while the rest of the Sparks shot a solid 26-for-47 (55 percent).
Meanwhile, the Lynx hit 10-of-their-1st-14 shots to take an early 20-10 lead, but the Sparks stormed back to within 20-19, then took a 26-24 lead in the 2nd period. But that, and 2-0, were their only leads of the night as the Lynx took leads of 41-37 at the half, 66-55 after 3, and 88-71 in the late going. The final was 88-77.
Chalk most of that up to Maya Moore who scored 23 points with 9 boards. She shot 9-of-18 while her teammates were just 23-of-58 (40 percent). But more than her scoring was Moore's defense. 7 of the Lynx' 11 steals were hers, and those steals led to perhaps as many as 7 or 8 breakaway layups, and those easy buckets were ultimately the difference in the score.
The Lynx, in other words, were outshot 46 percent to 42, but got off 14 more FGA than the Sparks.
Still, the game did not feel like it was over until we got inside of 3 minuites. Aussie Jenna O'Hea hit 4-of-5 3s including a pair in the 4th quarter that got L.A. within 66-60 at 8:51 and 79-69 at 4:50. Parker followed with a finger roll and it was 79-71 at 4:23.
But the Lynx responded with a Lindsay Whalen 2 + 1, a 3 by Seimone Augustus, and another Whalen layup off Moore's 7th and final steal and, at 87-71 at 2:54, now it was over.
Augustus matched Moore's 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, while Whalen and Candace Wiggins added 12 and 10. Augustus also was the primary defender versus Tolliver, while Mama Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored just 4 points but added 8 boards and 5 assists and she was the primary defender on Parker.
The Lynx bench contributed 19 points, but was out-scored again, 32-19. Once a strength for this team, the bench has not looked good at all since the Olympics. But Wiggins had a nice game, and Amber Harris added 6 points. Still, the bench looked like it was just holding on until the starters got rested and got back into the lineup.
But make no mistake. This was a tremendously physical game and the Lynx gave better than they got. The Lynx absolutely positively play the game very, very hard and at a high rate of speed. If you wanna beat the Lynx, you've got little choice but to try to shut down both Moore and Augustus, and that's a mighty challenge.
Still, this was an almost perfect effort from the Lynx, especially by their oft-maligned defense. As a result, the Lynx are now 4 games ahead of L.A. in the race for home court advantage in the playoffs within the division, and they're 3 games ahead of Connecticut overall. Good thing, too, as 6 of their remaining 8 games are on the road including 2 at San Antone and 1 at L.A. Next up: Atlanta at home this Friday at 7 p.m.