LOS ANGELES (AP) — Candace Parker watched video of herself in every game the Sparks played against Minnesota this season.
She didn’t like what she saw.
Parker brought a different mentality into Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, leading an aggressive charge from the opening tip in the Sparks’ 92-75 victory Friday night that put the franchise on the brink of its first championship since 2002.
“That was a product of me being non-existent in every game we played Minnesota this year,” Parker said.
She scored 24 points, Nneka Ogwumike added 21 and the Sparks took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
“We’ve worked too hard to get to this point and just be there,” Parker said. “We had a game plan of just going to the basket and being aggressive.”
The Sparks can close out the Lynx with a victory in Game 4 on Sunday.
Los Angeles built a 22-point advantage in the opening quarter when it shot 60 percent in the game played at Galen Center on the Southern California campus, down the street from their home court at Staples Center.
“It’s all on the want to of Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker to start the game. Their want-to was on ’10,'” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I’m not sure what we were expecting when we started the game but it wasn’t that.”
Parker and Ogwumike were especially devastating in a 2 1/2-minute sequence in the first. They combined to score 12 straight points with Ogwumike hitting consecutive 3-pointers and Los Angeles taking a 21-6 lead.
“I didn’t see it coming,” a clearly peeved Reeve said. “They won the persistency battle. We didn’t rise to the occasion. We were soft, we were feeble.”
Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles led Minnesota with 14 points each. Lindsay Whalen added 11, and Maya Moore had nine points and seven rebounds. The Lynx had 13 turnovers.
“They’re extremely good converting those turnovers into points,” Moore said. “If you give that much of a lead to a great team, it’s going to be really hard to come back.”
The Lynx cut the deficit to 48-40 at halftime, outscoring the Sparks 10-0 to end the second.
“You’re not going to sustain that,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said about his team’s initial intensity, “but I also think a lot of that had to do with Minnesota. They experimented there for a while and finally got a group that was working.”
It didn’t last long.
With their former and current league MVPs leading the way, the Sparks dominated inside. Parker and Ogwumike helped Los Angeles to a 52-32 advantage in the paint.
Parker and Ogwumike had nine rebounds each, helping the Sparks to a 29-24 edge on the boards.
Essence Carson added 16 points, and Alana Beard finished with 15 for Los Angeles.
The Lynx made a run in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Sparks 11-2 to close to 81-71. Los Angeles answered with eight straight points to go up 89-71. Parker hit a layup and fed Ogwumike on a fast-break sandwiched around baskets by Beard.
“We just didn’t have enough consecutive possessions on both sides of the ball to create enough of a run,” Moore said.
Minnesota is seeking its fourth title in six years. The Lynx evened the series with a 19-point victory in Game 2 on their home court.
League MVP Ogwumike was the only unanimous pick for the all-WNBA first team, receiving 39 first-place votes and 195 points from the media panel.
New York center Tina Charles was second with 38 first-team votes and 193 points. Guards Maya Moore of Minnesota and Sue Bird of Seattle, and forward Elena Delle Donne completed the first team.
Forwards Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta and Breanna Stewart of Seattle were selected to the second team along with guards Diana Taurasi of Phoenix and Jewell Loyd of Seattle, and center Fowles.
Lynx F Natasha Howard scored six points, but made a bigger statement with footwear. She sported the purple symbol associated with the late singer Prince on her white shoes.
Lynx F-C Janel McCarville hurt her back and didn’t return.
Game 4 is Sunday night at Staples Center.
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