Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Turnovers short Sparks against Lynx


The Minnesota Lynx demonstrated their depth to the fullest Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Sparks at Target Center.

Rookie forward Maya Moore struggled, making just two of 11 shots, while forward Rebekkah Brunson was ejected midway through the fourth quarter after receiving two technical fouls for comments made to officials. However, Minnesota cruised to an 85-72 win by scoring 35 points off 25 turnovers committed by Los Angeles. In contrast, the Lynx gave up only 15 points on 15 turnovers.

Helping the Lynx (11-4) capitalize on turnovers was guard Seimone Augustus, who scored 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and guard Lindsay Whalen with 16 points and seven assists. Whalen missed only one of her nine field goal attempts for the game.

"We just clicked immediately," Augustus said. "We had people in the passing lanes, getting deflections, the help side was there."

The Sparks (6-9) did feature the game's two top scorers, as guard Kristi Toliver scored a game-high 28 points while center Ebony Hoffman's 10-of-11 accuracy led to 24 points. Unfortunately, the rest of the team scored just 20, with goose eggs from starters Delisha Milton-Jones and Noelle Quinn.

"This is the second game where we started slowly. The problem is the first quarter where we dug ourselves a hole," said Sparks head coach Joe Bryant.

Los Angeles committed nine turnovers in the first quarter, with Minnesota coughing the ball up once.

Any doubts of Minnesota's closing abilities following the All-Star break were likely squashed on a key third quarter run. Los Angeles cut a 13-point halftime deficit to four, getting as close as 47-43 with 6:52 in the third. The Lynx's Taj McWilliams-Franklin then found Lindsay Whalen for a back-door lay-up, initiating a 17-2 run and signaling a potential end to the dominance the Sparks have held over the Lynx in recent years.

"They caught us off our heels. We just didn't value the ball." Hoffman said.

Minnesota's victory gave them a one-game lead over San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference and the league's best record. Adding to their aura is Augustus closing in on a milestone. After Tuesday night's game, if Augustus scores at least 103 points in the next five games, she would be the fastest to score 3,000 career points in WNBA history despite missing 37 games in the last two seasons to injury.

Currently, the record belongs to Cynthia Cooper. In previous circumstances, such buzz would direct all media attention to the 2006 first overall draft pick. However, with Augustus among four Minnesota All-Stars this year, she no longer carries the team's emotional weight on her own.

"I just sit back, relax and do what I do best: play ball," she said.

Accolades have been afterthoughts all season, as Augustus was not the least bit slighted over not being named to the WNBA's top 15 players of all time as part of their 15th season celebration. Fellow 2006 entrant Cappie Pondexter did get the nod, likely boosted with her two WNBA titles while in Phoenix.

"That's what separates those 15 players from me and the rest of the ladies that weren't up there," she said. "I want to get five championships and then I'll be at the top."


After completing pregame interviews, this writer received a request from several youth basketball players from Watertown-Mayer to autograph their game-day programs. The passion and joy from younger players seeing their big-league role models is indisputable. Critics still chastising the league for low attendance or interest should visit the tunnel before games to see the youth demographic line up for their brush with fame, complete with game-day programs signed by this writer.

Click play below to listen to Sparks guard Ticha Penicheiro, who talks about how her WNBA contributions highlight her home country of Portugal as more than just a soccer nation.

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