St. Paul – It was only a Thursday night regular season match up, yet it was one not short of narratives during the lead-up. How would each team react in their first meeting following the 2016 Finals?
In the end, however, it was the Lynx getting the better of the Sparks, 88-77 in what was the latest chapter of the rivalry.
Renee Montgomery and Sylvia Fowles each scored 20 points for Minnesota, with Fowles also securing 13 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season. Seimone Augustus chipped in with 16 points while Maya Moore tallied 10.
The Lynx distanced themselves early, taking an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter. They stretched the margin to 19 at the 5:39 of the second quarter before Los Angeles went on a 16-7 run to close out the half, cutting the host’s lead to 10.
The Sparks had their best opportunity to close the gap in the third quarter, narrowing the deficit to as many as four before closing out the frame down five points. But Minnesota stepped up again, utilizing a Plenette Pierson three-point basket to take a 10-point lead, and they never looked back.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said the key to the win was her team taking control of the game from the tip.
“I loved the start we got off to,” Reeve said “I thought that we were pretty locked in and focused, which is what you expect. We dictated a lot of the action and I felt we had them back on their heels initially.”
“Offensively, we put the ball in the hole pretty consistently with the big lead. They made some adjustments and made some changes in their lineup and got a little more aggressive on defense. We made some key plays and some really big times both defensively and offensively.”
Reeve also noted the contributions from the bench, which included Montgomery. Minnesota’s bench outscored that of Los Angeles, 33-19.
“Obviously (we were) led by Renee, but I thought overall Plenette got a lot of work done in 13 minutes of play,” Reeve said. “Jia (Perkins) came in there and made some big plays, both defensively and offensively. The bench was huge, and that’s exactly what we asked of them before the game was to make sure they were ready to contribute today, because we needed them.”
The Sparks’ effort was once again led by Nneka Ogwumike, who scored a game-high 27 points while also grabbing 14 rebounds.
Following the game, Ogwumike said the loss is part of the Sparks’ learning curve for this season.
“It’s another stepping stone in our progression as a team,” Ogwumike said. “We’re not the same team as we were last year, and we want to make strides, so I’m going to take that we learned from a great team. We fought back, we fought back into the game, but it’s going to be difficult to try and win a game when you’re down the whole time.”