BY MIKE PEDEN
While the term "must-win" is generally not used in early season games, the Minnesota Lynx faced that scenario against the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday at Target Center.
A win would mean a weekend split and a serenade to the 10,123 fans in attendance for the Lynx's home opener. A loss would put them at 0-2 and start to raise concerns about team chemistry and capability.
The Lynx delivered big-time with an 86-69 win, snapping their eight-game losing streak against the Sparks while giving Sparks head coach Jennifer Gillom her first loss against the team she helmed at the start of her head coaching career.
Seimone Augustus, who scored a game high 17 points, was eager for payback following Friday's 82-74 loss at Staples Center.
"I didn't even sleep, I didn't eat," she said. "Today was a start. We did a solid job running the offense and getting the ball where we needed to."
Augustus was one of six Lynx (1-1) players to finish in double-figures for scoring. Others included Rebekkah Brunson, who recorded her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
"We didn't fall apart or doubt ourselves," she said.
Rookie guard Maya Moore added 16, with 14 in the second half. Although she struggled to find the basket in the first half, she brought Lynx fans to their feet by blocking a three-point shot from Tina Thompson.
Her second highlight came with 6:21 remaining in fourth quarter, when she pump-faked Candace Parker and drained a mid-range jumper.
"(She is) a really tough match-up. Our posts did a good job of trying to make it tough on her," Moore said.
Although Moore has been the face of Minnesota's marketing campaign, she quickly praised the team's unselfishness on the court.
"We all really care about making sure we work well together. That's why this game is so fun," she said.
Good ball control and rebounding meant the Lynx never flirted with disaster after building a lead as large as 23. Minnesota recorded 17 assists and committed 12 turnovers to Los Angeles' 16 and 17, respectively. The Lynx scooped 44 rebounds, with 15 on offense. The Sparks (1-1) finished with just 28 rebounds and five offensive boards.
Los Angeles lost their rhythm in the second half, with Minnesota outscoring them 24-10 in the third quarter. Their leading scorer was Kristi Toliver, who scored 13 points despite playing 10:35 for the game. Parker and Thompson added 11.
The Sparks' fortune could be murky in the short-term, as 14-year veteran Ticha Penicheiro left the game in the third with an ankle injury. An MRI is scheduled Monday.
Minnesota hosts Tulsa on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Although the Shock struggled in their season opener Saturday against the San Antonio Silver Stars, the Shock beat the Lynx twice last season and could return to play the spoiler role.
"We have to keep that mindset of people trying to take it away from us," Moore said.
"We're starting to settle in our offense, settle in our defense. The future's bright," Augustus said.
Mike Peden gets a few words with Los Angeles Sparks veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones, who reflects on the WNBA's history as the league enters its 15th season. Click play to listen.
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15