MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As Lindsay Whalen goes, so often go the Minnesota Lynx.
Whalen scored 20 points in the Lynx’ 88-64 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.
Seimone Augustus had 19 points, and Devereaux Peters added 14 points and nine rebounds to help the Lynx improve to 7-2 with their fifth win in six games.
“The type of defense we played and the approach to the game was championship basketball,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They took great pride and came out and played in a way we can all be proud of.”
Candace Parker had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Sparks (5-3), who beat Minnesota by 28 points last Friday night in California. Kristi Toliver added 14 points.
The teams are scheduled to meet again Tuesday night at Staples Center.
It was the second straight strong outing for Whalen, who also had six assists, five rebounds and ran into at least three elbows, including one that snapped her head back. She entered the game averaging 12.6 points, 5.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds, and had 19 points, nine assists and three rebounds Sunday in a win over Tulsa.
“It’s not like she is outperforming what she usually does,” said Maya Moore, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “It’s really comforting and motivating for us knowing that we have a point guard that is that aggressive, so we are going to get open as well. … To be able to have as many points, rebounds and assists for a point guard it’s really phenomenal.”
Reeve said she sleeps much better knowing Whalen is on her side.
“I think she told me, every quarter, ‘I got you coach. I got you,'” Reeve said. “She understood what was needed. When she comes out and plays like that it helps set the tone. Her pick at half court, to start the game, really set the tone for the rest of the way.”
Los Angeles controlled the opening tap, but Whalen quickly took the ball from Lindsey Harding and went in for an uncontested layup.
“I wanted to be more active after watching the tape of the game out in L.A.,” said Whalen, who had two points, two rebounds and no assists in the June 21 contest. “I thought we needed a little more tempo and aggressiveness off the start. A lot of that starts from the perimeter.”
Augustus had 12 points to help Minnesota take a 24-15 lead after one quarter. Minnesota had 24 first-half points last week in its 87-59 loss to the Sparks.
Whalen scored the first seven points of the second quarter to start a 13-2 Minnesota run to increase the lead to 20 at 37-17. During the spurt, Los Angeles went 5:34 without a point.
“We felt like in L.A. they punched us in the mouth first,” Augustus said. “They were the aggressors, so we definitely want to protect our home court and come out and be more aggressive.”
Los Angeles had an 11-3 run to cut it to 40-28 late in the first half, but the Sparks — winless in three road games — could get no closer. They trailed by 29 in the fourth quarter.
“I wouldn’t say we punched; I thought we slapped at them a couple times,” said Sparks coach Carol Ross. “We just were not as tough as we need to be.”
Minnesota outrebounded the Sparks 47-28, after Los Angeles held a 12 margin the last time the teams met. The Lynx had a 52-18 points-in-the-paint advantage, after the Sparks held a 38-28 advantage a week ago.
“How many times did they have three or four opportunities at shooting?” Parker said. “At the other end we didn’t shoot very well, so we have to get on the offensive boards.”
The Sparks made 36.9 percent of their field goals after entering the game shooting a WNBA-best 48.7 percent.
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