WNBA Finals Game 3 Film Room: Lynx surge late, Sparks finish strong

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Candace Parker
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Candace Parker /

The early bird got the worm again in these 2017 WNBA Finals. Game 3 didn’t quite come down to the final possession like the first two, but Minnesota did fight their way back to within a point on the road.

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Let’s pick things up near the middle of the third quarter. The Sparks led by 6 at the half. Candace Parker then pushed the lead to 13:

She found Odyssey Sims on a back cut less than a minute later:

Maya Moore, who spent time on the bench with three early fouls, led the charge to turn things around for the Lynx. First, she came away with a steal and got fouled to cap off a wild sequence.

Note there that the Sparks still led by 13. Shortly after, Moore hit a pull-up jumper over Alana Beard near the left elbow.

That right-left crossover has been Moore’s best weapon to turn to against Beard in iso situations in these Finals.

Rookie guard Alexis Jones saw her first Finals action in Game 3 and made the most of it, especially in some two-person game with Moore. This action didn’t result in a score, but Jia Perkins cashed in after the offensive rebound.

Minnesota only managed four offensive rebounds in Game 3. That isn’t too far off the combined 14 they pulled down in the first two games, but every little edge matters between these two teams. Think of Seimone Augustus, who did not score in Game 3. Two of her huge shots from Game 1 came off of offensive boards.

Moore got to work from the elbows a few times as the Lynx leaned more on a small lineup. Moore drew an extra defender with one dribble then kicked it to Jones for her second triple of the game:

Still in the third quarter, Jones would cut it to 6 with the help of another Moore screen.

Renee Montgomery was also key to Minnesota’s Game 3 efforts. She scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half, which was desperately needed as the Lynx struggled to find any sort of rhythm.

The threat of Moore and Jones in that third quarter left no help for this Montgomery-Rebekkah Brunson pick and roll as Minnesota continued to climb back into the game:

I’ve been beating this drum since the playoffs started: It’ll always feel like there’s room for more pick and roll or post up looks for Chelsea Gray. She’s too tough to guard when she has a head start. Gray found Jantel Lavender late in the third for a jumper. Lavender went 3-for-5 in front of the home crowd on Friday; she made just one field goal in the first two games of the series.

Moore and Jones kept their feet on the gas to open the fourth, this time it was Moore drilling a three.

Moore later would score on a quick transition post up as Beard went for the steal.

This was a three point game not three minutes into the fourth. Moore then deflected a pass and Minnesota was off and running. Montgomery hit the jumper to cut it to one.

Then this may have been the one that turned the tide in LA’s favor. Beard rubbed off Parker then finished the and-1.

Parker, from the same spot, would feed Gray for a catch and shoot three. (Is there a more sure thing in the WNBA right now than Gray behind the three-point line with her feet set?) Watch Beard come into the play from the opposite side to give Gray plenty of room:

Brian Agler talked about matching runs of the other team when playing from ahead after Game 1. Those plays you just saw were big-time answers from the defending champs. They then sealed the deal with big plays defensively in the closing minutes.

These WNBA Finals have been about defense. The Lynx got 7 straight stops in the third as they made their initial push, which Riquna Williams finally broke up with a three. Four straight stops to open the fourth allowed Minnesota to cut it to one as they did.

Minnesota struggled to make shots around the middle of the fourth. They got some good looks. As the game got into crunch time, the Sparks made big plays with their defense. The Sparks responded with 9 straight stops before Fowles put an end to it with a putback score. Here’s Parker fighting around Fowles to get a steal.

Gray then anticipated a lob to Fowles and was there right away to knock the ball away.

We’re right where we were last year. Los Angeles can clinch it in Game 4 in front of their fans at Staples Center. If Minnesota forces a Game 5, well, who could possibly complain about that?