Sparks beat Lynx, move within a win of back-to-back titles
ABS-CBN Sports on Sep 30, 2017 02:57 PM
Minnesota Lynx guard Alexis Jones, left, reaches for a rebound along with Los Angeles Sparks guard Alana Beard during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA basketball finals, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Sparks won 75-64. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
By Jill Painter, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike came up big to move the Los Angeles Sparks within one win of repeating as WNBA champions.
Parker had 13 points and five steals while Ogwumike had 16 points and 10 rebounds to help the Sparks beat the Lynx 75-64 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Friday night.
“Good players have to make big plays,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “Tonight was our night.”
The Sparks had double figures from four of their five starters as Odyssey Sims scored 16 points and Chelsea Gray added 14. Even the bench produced with 11 points.
The Sparks have taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five game series and with one more win can become the first team since 2002 to win the championship in back-to-back years. Los Angeles won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
The Lynx face elimination on Sunday. A Minnesota win would push the series to a fifth and final game Wednesday.
Lynx forward Maya Moore scored 16 points, all of which came in the second half. She picked up her third foul in the second quarter and fouled out with 37 seconds left.
“It’s hard to win a WNBA Finals game without your star players,” Reeve said. “In the series we’ve seen the team that has the stars that outplay the other stars wins the game. We do find that important. However, I’m really appreciative of the group that was in there battling and giving us a chance to win the game. Our defense gave us a chance for sure. We had a rookie point guard in there (Alexis Jones). We had to go small. I have an appreciation for what that group did to give us a chance to be in the game.”
The Sparks led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter but the Lynx pulled to within one in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles held on, outscoring Minnesota 17-7 after the Lynx got within 58-57.
“We were able to get stops on the defensive end. They are a great team,” Parker said. “They hit some big shots down the stretch. We just wanted to make things tough for the big-time players. We didn’t let them get a lot of second-chance opportunities.”
The first two games came down to the final seconds and this was another close game but the Sparks never trailed.
For the second straight game, Parker was held scoreless in the first quarter again and had just five points by halftime but produced in so many ways.
The Sparks built an 11-point lead in the first quarter and but led just 32-26 by halftime.
Ogwumike was whistled for her third foul with 8:18 left in the third quarter but played through it in 29 minutes.
The Sparks left the court before the National Anthem in silent protest. The Sparks have said they’re standing for solidarity and unity and they did the same in Games 1 and 2. They were booed in Minnesota when they returned from the court in Game 2. They were not booed in Los Angeles.
The Sparks outrebounded the Lynx 34-27 after making a concerted effort for a better performance on the glass. Parker didn’t have a rebound in the first half of Game 2. She finished with seven rebounds. Ogwumike had a team-best 10. For the Lynx, Sylvia Fowles had a team-high 11 rebounds but no other starter had more than three.
“By getting to the ball before we did,” Moore said of the Sparks’ dominance on the glass. “Rebounding is sometimes about luck by 99 percent is about effort. That’s definitely not a secret about winning championships. You get extra possessions with rebounds. It’s something we know we have to get done. Something we can do because it’s been our identity all year.”
The Sparks can hoist the trophy in Los Angles his time with one more win. They won last year in Minnesota.
“I think this team is mature enough to realize how important it is to play possession by possession,” Parker said. “We can learn from our experiences in the past. We’re mature enough to know you can’t go out there and try to swing for the fences and hit the home run.
“We could’ve come home 0-2 or 2-0. Nothing is guaranteed. I think that’s the way we’re going to approach it. They’re a team that plays well when their backs are against the wall and we play well when our backs are against the wall? I guess that’s the question.”
Musician Snoop Dogg and Magic Johnson — co-owner of the Sparks — attended the game. ... MVP Sylvia Fowles was named to the All-WNBA first team with 39 of 40 votes for 195 points. Sparks center Candace Parker was also on the first team with 137 points along with Lynx forward Moore (127 points). Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray were on the second team.
The Sparks can clinch the WNBA championship with a win in Game 4 Sunday at Staples Center.