The play-by-play commentator summed up Minnesota’s 94-77 rout of L.A. perfectly during the third quarter: “Minnesota is running circles around the Sparks.”
It’s unfair to say that tonight’s game at Staples Center was over in the first quarter, but the Minnesota Lynx got off to a hot start that the L.A. Sparks were never able to fully recover from in a 94-77 rout.
And the 29-14 first quarter score doesn’t even do Minnesota’s first quarter dominance justice.
The visiting Lynx shot 12-for-17 in the first quarter. They retrieved three of those five misses and made good on every one of those second chances for six additional points. When they weren’t making shots and dominating the boards, they were making 5 of 6 free throw attempts.
In other words, the Lynx not only shot 70.6% from the field in the first quarter, but also got back all but one of their misses to convert them into points in addition to making all but one free throw. That’s about as dominant as it gets in a competition between human beings.
And it wasn’t even Minnesota’s best quarter – they didn’t even start raining threes on the Sparks until the second quarter and they just piled it on in the third.
In the third quarter, the Lynx shot 75% from the field, 4-for-4 from the free throw line and got two of those threes off of offensive rebounds to record six second chance points again. Maya Moore got 16 of her game-high 31 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting in the third period while getting basically whatever she wanted whenever she wanted against whoever wanted to try stopping her.
On the one hand, a performance that dominant is hard for any team to overcome no matter what they do; on the other hand, it was a disheartening home performance at home for a Sparks team that seems to be searching for direction right now.
Tactically, defense was obviously the culprit as things like leaving Lynx rookie Tricia Liston open for five three point attempts are simply things you can control – as color commentator Jarron Collins said multiple times, that’s a KYP (Know Your Personnel) lapse. Offensively, without the three point shooting presence of Kristi Toliver, the Sparks have little spacing and struggle to get shots.
But this game – like the Sparks’ 3-7 season – wasn’t just about strategy.
The commentators eventually ran out of adjectives to describe the Sparks’ performance, but what immediately stands out is repeated mention of the home team looking flat, lacking passion, and needing to show energy. And as Collins noted a number of times, at some point pride has to kick in for a roster full of veterans to help them find those intangibles.
Alana Beard did seem to find a rhythm in the first half while scoring 16 of her team-high 18 points on some sweet shooting. And reigning MVP Candace Parker had 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting that will look better on paper than it felt during the game.
But the familiar problems on defense and redundancies that in the roster’s composition that manifest themselves on offense rendered those individual performances almost entirely irrelevant to the narrative of this game: this was about one team who looked hungry to snap a losing streak and another that is unsure of how to win right now.