MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Lynx were backed into a corner after a Game 1 loss on their home floor to the star-studded Los Angeles Sparks.
No time to panic for this battle-tested group. The defending champions know just how to respond.
Maya Moore had 21 points and 12 rebounds to help the Lynx even the WNBA Finals at one game apiece with a 79-60 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“This team bounces back well. We can’t stay down for too long,” Moore said. “And I’m a part of that. I wanted to bring that energy and that’s what I took on myself personally today.”
Sylvia Fowles had 13 points and 15 boards and Minnesota held Los Angeles to 32.9 percent shooting to bounce back from a last-second loss in Game 1. Seimone Augustus scored 14 points and Minnesota dominated on the glass, 46-32, to pull away.
“We played like this game was more important to them than it was to us and that’s unfortunate,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “You don’t get these opportunities often, so you have to play like you might not get this game back.”
Nneka Ogwumike had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sparks, who head back home for the next two games in the best-of-five series. Candace Parker was quiet with six points on 3-for-12 shooting and the Sparks missed 17 of 20 3-pointers.
The Lynx are trying to become the first back-to-back champions in the league since the Sparks repeated in 2002. A win in this series would also give Minnesota its fourth championship, which would tie the Lynx with the Houston Comets for most in league history.
Last year the Lynx lost Game 1 at Target Center to the Indiana Fever, but rebounded to win that series in five games. But they know they face an even more capable challenger this year.
“We know what we needed to do,” Augustus said. “We watched the entire footage from Game 1 and saw where we made mistakes.”
Neither team led by more than five points during an air-tight Game 1 that Los Angeles won at the buzzer on a jumper from Alana Beard. The first 16 minutes of Game 2 were just as competitive, but Moore and the Lynx seized control in the final four minutes of the second quarter.
After going scoreless in the first half of Game 1, Moore got rolling during a 17-3 blitz to close the period. She hit two 3s and a layup, then picked Parker’s pocket and heaved a three-quarter length outlet to a streaking Lindsay Whalen for a three-point play and a 37-25 lead.
Moore had 12 points in the first half and the Lynx took much better care of the ball after coughing it up 11 times in the first half of Game 1.
The Sparks made things interesting with a 14-0 run in the third quarter that made the score 44-41, but Augustus and Moore took over in the fourth to turn back the charge.
“I think it had a lot to do with our effort,” Ogwumike said. “Not to say that we don’t want it. But you get tired and muddled and you’re not focusing on what you’re doing, a lot of times confusion can seep in. And I think that’s what happened.”
MVP DISAPPEARS: Ogwumike, the league MVP, scored just two points in the final period, and took just six shots in the entire game. “It’s a hard job. (Our post players) made it look easy, but it’s not,” Moore said. “She’s such an explosive player.”
REBOUNDING ADVANTAGE: The Lynx parlayed their edge on the glass into a 17-7 advantage in second-chance points. They shot a pedestrian 45 percent from the field, but had 13 offensive rebounds to create more opportunities. “When the ball went up on the glass and a shot was taken on either end, they outworked us,” Agler said.
QUOTABLE: “Now I know how Shaq felt in the NBA,” — Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve on the physical play on Fowles in the paint.
RECORD RATING: The WNBA instituted a new playoff format this year that seeded teams based on record, not geography. It resulted in the two best teams during the regular season meeting in the finals despite both playing in the Western Conference. Game 1 drew an average audience of 597,000, the most-watched Game 1 ever on ABC, the network announced on Tuesday. It peaked with 693,000 viewers and was the most-watched Game 1 since 1998 broadcast across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.
UP NEXT: Game 3 is Friday in Los Angeles.
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