Sparks Derail Lynx 87-59
Sports Fan Insider
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The feeling stuck with Kristi Toliver when the Minnesota Lynx celebrated on her home floor last October and ended her championship aspirations.
It stuck with her teammates, too.
Toliver scored 19 points and Nneka Ogwumike scored 18 points with eight rebounds and five assists as the Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Minnesota Lynx 87-59, on Friday night.
With Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in attendance, Toliver took a page from the NBA stars and made 4 of 6 six 3-point attempts while Ogwumike went 9 for 11 from the field to lead the Sparks (4-2) to a rout of the defending Western Conference champion Lynx (5-2).
It was the first meeting since Minnesota swept Los Angeles in last year’s conference finals. It was L.A.’s only home loss last season.
“As much as we want to approach every game the same, I remember what it felt like to lose to them on our home court last year,” Toliver said. “I took that very personally. They out-toughed us in that final game and I refused to let that happen again.”
Lindsey Harding returned to the lineup from an eye injury and scored 13 points, and Candace Parker had five points and eight rebounds. Jantel Lavender scored 16 points.
The Sparks won two games in a row for the first time this season after a franchise-record 36-point win against San Antonio. The team refocused defensively after a loss to Phoenix on June 14, and it showed. Minnesota, the WNBA’s highest-scoring team at 86.5 points a game, was held to season lows in points and field-goal percentage and went 2 for 14 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t want to start bouncing around and be inconsistent,” Ogwumike said. “To see the same consistency almost a week later in this game is definitely solidifying the identity that we’re trying to find.”
Said Toliver of the Phoenix loss, “We were very disappointed. That was not who we were. We wanted to identify ourselves and we are now going to be the toughest and the baddest team on the floor on a night to night basis.”
Monica Wright scored 14 points to lead Minnesota, which removed all of its starters early in the second half. The Lynx had its three-game winning streak snapped and its three-game road trip end with a thud.
“I think we outhustled, pretty much the whole game,” Lindsay Whalen said. “The second team went and did some really good things and made a lot of things happen. We just got outhustled and ended up taking bad shots on offense and then that kind of put our defense in a hard position. It wasn’t our night.”
Minnesota never got closer than 21 points down in the second half as coach Cheryl Reeve sat starters Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Janel McCarville, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen almost the entire half.
Brunson, the league’s third-leading rebounder, did not have a rebound.
“They executed, they played harder,” Moore said. “We didn’t have what we needed on the offensive end, giving them easy transition points off of our turnovers and our defensive focus and effort wasn’t there.”
Whalen scored the opening basket of the second half but L.A. scored the next 10 points as Reeve took out all her starters. Harding capped the 10-2 run with a basket while she was fouled off an in-bounds play to give L.A. its biggest lead at 60-26.
“We didn’t make an adjustment, and they took advantage,” Moore said.
Toliver and Ogwumike each went 6 for 7 from the field in the first half to lead L.A. with 16 points and 12 points, respectively.
Toliver sank all four 3-point attempts in the second quarter. Minnesota called timeout after her second 3 gave the Sparks a 35-16 lead, but Moore traveled on the ensuing possession and Toliver came down and sank her third 3-pointer.
Ogwumike made a short one-hand jumper and a runner from the right side before Marissa Coleman pushed the lead to 50-24 at halftime on a long jumper.
It was the lowest scoring first half this season for Minnesota, which shot 32.3 percent as Brunson and Whalen went scoreless. The Sparks took a 26-12 lead after the first quarter, including a 10-4 run with Toliver and Parker on the bench.
Paul is known to take in Sparks games with his young son.
“Still trying to get Kobe to come out, though,” Toliver joked.
The Lynx have lost nine of their past 10 regular season contests in L.A.
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