Lynx Takeaways: Sparks out-defend Lynx in Game 3

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Odyssey Sims /

The first two games were highlighted by lopsided offense from each. First, the Sparks in Game 1 and then the Lynx in Game 2. It stood to reason that Game 3 would be more balanced than the others. The third installment was the antithesis of the first two games: a grinding defensive slugfest between two juggernauts, a 73-64 Los Angeles victory on Friday night.

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After one quarter, the Sparks led 17-8. In fact, both teams broke 20 points in just one quarter of Game 3. Imagine having all of the offensive firepower between these two rosters and having neither team break 75. Nothing came easy for either side and had to earn everything.

Credit the Sparks for disrupting the Lynx’s game plan. Maya Moore had to sit with three fouls in the first quarter and eventually fouled out. As a whole, the Sparks succeeded in getting to the line. Their 16-for-19 advantage at the stripe was nine more than the Lynx. Foul trouble forced Cheryl Reeve deep into her bench. Reeve has typically stuck with a seven or eight-player playoff rotation but played 10 on Friday hoping to get something going. Unfortunately, the reserves sputtered, converting just 9-of-31 shots from the floor.

While neither team shot the ball well, it was how the Sparks forced the Lynx to go 40 percent from the floor. Lindsay Whalen nor Seimone Augustus scored and Whalen played just 12 minutes. Whalen’s 14 points were a key part of their Game 2 victory but the Lynx missed her offensive support. Her absence also showed in the team finishing with just 13 assists.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 29: Chelsea Gray and Maya Moore.
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 29: Chelsea Gray and Maya Moore. /

Despite all of these things, the Lynx hung around. The game wasn’t decided until the final minute when Moore drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Lynx within six with 58 seconds to play. Unfortunately, missing 9-of-10 shots in the stretch leading up to that shot still gave the Lynx long odds at a comeback. Fouls and turnovers ensured that Moore’s 3-pointer was not the start of a rally.

Even the bright spots had blisters on Friday for the Lynx. Moore and Sylvia Fowles were a combined 13-for-18 from the field, including another double-double for Fowles. Moore added 16 points, three rebounds and steals, and two assists. As mentioned above, Moore fouled out and Fowles had four fouls and four turnovers. To their credit, Moore was guarded by Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard and Fowles held Candace Parker to 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists on 13 shots. Parker was also a plus-18 but Fowles did everything she could to make her scoring difficult.

Fowles and Moore didn’t have enough support for them to overcome their own mistakes, no less their teammates’. If the Lynx want to bring this series back to Minneapolis they’re going to have to keep the Sparks off of the line, cut turnovers, and move the ball better. The Lynx defended well but the Sparks were better, including winning the rebounding battle by seven– an area where Minnesota usually thrives.

This is still a series. The series has had the same pattern as last season’s Finals. While difficult, it’s not impossible to win at Staples Center. The Lynx have also proven that they’re tough to beat back-to-back. Defense will likely be a theme for both teams in Game 4 but Whalen and Augustus probably won’t be shut out again. If they can continue their defensive focus and contain the Los Angeles offense, they can stretch the series to five games.

Great teams have short memories for both wins and losses. Minnesota’s core has played together for six years now, won many games and three titles. That’s what they’ll have to do on Sunday when the Lynx look to extend their season.