Three Takeaways: Sparks take season series over Lynx

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Candace Parker
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Candace Parker /

The Los Angeles Sparks defended their home floor against the Minnesota Lynx, asserting control early and pulling out a 78-67 victory. With the win, the Sparks pull within one-half point of the Lynx for top-seed positioning heading into the WNBA playoffs.

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Candace Parker led the way with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims tallied 16 and 12 points, respectively.

Sylvia Fowles was the top scorer for the Lynx with 17 points; she also pulled down 14 rebounds for a double-double of her own. In an odd twist, Maya Moore had a very un-Maya Moore-like game, with a modest 10 points.

As the regular season winds to close, here are the takeaways on these two teams still vying for home-court advantage:

Lynx title run depends on Lindsay Whalen. Lynx were undone by turnovers against the Sparks on Sunday, in large part because of inefficient offensive execution. Renee Montgomery – who has been subbing for veteran point guard Lindsay Whalen while she recovers from a hand injury – does not have the court vision or crisp passing that Whalen is known for. Perhaps the loose ball movement contributed to Moore’s uncharacteristic low-scoring night.

ST. PAUL, MN – AUGUST 11: Chelsea Gray
ST. PAUL, MN – AUGUST 11: Chelsea Gray /

Los Angeles’ driving-lane game is unstoppable. For any team to get by the Sparks in the WNBA playoffs, it will have to find a way to plug the Sparks’ driving lanes – something Minnesota was unable to accomplish on Sunday. Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike seemed to score at will on drives to the basket. Chelsea Gray’s and Odyssey Sims’ early shots off the drive missed, but they continued using the open lanes for high-percentage shot opportunities. Lo and behold, the shots began to fall. A key for any team looking to get past the Sparks is to find a way to seal off the driving lanes.

The Sparks are serious about a repeat. Los Angeles put on full display the confident swagger of champions. They were composed to an impressive degree and took their time looking for the best shot opportunities. The Sparks were off to a slow start but methodically pulled even with the Lynx before tying, increasing the lead and eventually pulling away from Minnesota in a dominant performance. Gray knocked down a late-game three-pointer that increased the Sparks’ fourth-quarter lead to 13 and ended Minnesota’s last, best run. LA is poised, locked in and hungry for another title.

The Sparks face the Atlanta Dream on Friday September 1 at Staples Center. The Lynx travel to Indiana to face the Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday August 30.