Lynx leave more questions than answers after Game 1 loss


MINNEAPOLIS—The Minnesota Lynx were fortunate to make a game of Sunday’s Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, an 85-84 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.

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Unexpectedly, the Lynx found themselves down 28-2 with five minutes to play in the first quarter. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had burned through two timeouts before her team could find a rebound or create an assist. Again, this was all at the halfway mark of the first quarter at home.

Los Angeles’ defense took away everything early, including impressively denying Sylvia Fowles a single touch. It is, of course, difficult to find a rebound when your opponent isn’t missing shots and it reflected in the scoreboard.

After an 11-point first quarter, the Lynx ended the half on a 28-12 run to trail by 12 headed into the third. Thanks to Maya Moore’s 14 points, Minnesota was able to rally as the Sparks committed a slew of turnovers and fouls.

Candace Parker had an impressive 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists but also had four fouls and three turnovers.

Just two minutes into the second half, the Lynx cut the deficit to just six. Later in the third, they would cut it to five twice. The had trailed by 11 to the Mystics in Game 2 of the Semifinals but coming back from 26 down to this Sparks team was arguably more impressive. Yet, the Sparks, led by Chelsea Gray, would push the lead to 12 entering the fourth quarter.

PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 17: Candace Parker
PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 17: Candace Parker /

The fourth quarter saw all of the game’s suspense. Seimone Augustus’ 3-pointer gave the Lynx their first lead, 82-81 with 40 seconds to play. Nneka Ogwumike answered with a falling hook shot over a double team to reclaim the lead. Moore missed the -go ahead layup with 18.9 to go and Essence Carson was fouled on the rebound. Carson missed two free throws and the Lynx pushed the ball up court to Moore who redeemed herself to give the Lynx an 84-83 lead with 6.5 seconds to play. The game with Gray hitting the game winner with just two seconds remaining.

Minnesota’s ability to dig them out of their hole was impressive. However, it’s not a hole they should have been in. Their close outs were slow all night long as the Sparks saw many good shots from deep. Being unable to get a rebound or assist and find one of their best players is something that cannot become recurring.

Maybe that’s all Sunday’s game was: an anomaly. We saw the Lynx start slow in Game 2 of the Washington series but they turned around to close it out. With all due respect to the Mystics, this is the Sparks. They are a whole other animal. To win a championship, the Lynx will now have to take a game in Los Angeles, a place the Sparks have lost once all season. That’s why home court advantage was so important for Minnesota. It will be a challenge since the Sparks’ lone loss at Staples Center was a two-point loss to Chicago.

Sunday afternoon was a missed opportunity for the Lynx, who nearly set the WNBA Finals record for greatest comeback. They fought back with defense and shooting like you would expect a number one seed to do. But it’s a position they should never have been in to begin with. The Sparks now hold the edge with two games left at home.


Minnesota also received just 16 points from players not named “Moore,” “Fowles,” and “Augustus.” Los Angeles had four players besides Gray in double figures. This is in spite of Ogwumike and Parker shooting a combined 9-for-23. The Sparks were out-rebounded and out-assisted but their scoring was more balanced.

The Lynx can view this game in one of two ways. Either this was truly an anomaly and they can build on their final three quarters or the slow starts are a problem. Can the Lynx continue to force turnovers and draw fouls like they did after the first quarter? How can they contain the Chelsea Grays when Parker and Ogwumike get their shots going?

Minnesota can still turn the series around but we’re left with more questions than answers after Game 1.