BY MIKE PEDEN
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.
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