No Hollywood Ending For The Defending Champions

By Tyler Berry

 

Tuesday night sadly signified the end of an era in Minnesota. With a 75-68 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in a first-round single-elimination matchup, veteran guard Lindsay Whalen officially played her last game in a Lynx uniform.

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It was an up-and-down game for Whalen and the entire Minnesota squad, as there were times when it looked as though either side would run away with the game. However, when all was said and done, basketball fans witnessed an exciting, stress-inducing game that will surely go down as a worthy addition to the greatest WNBA rivalry of all time.

 

Slow Starts

Under the bright lights of Los Angeles’ Staples Center, both teams got off to slow starts. Minnesota saw some unexpected defensive matchups from the Sparks, as Whalen had to deal with Nneka Ogwumike’s defensive prowess while Sylvia Fowles had to bang down low with Candace Parker. The different looks from L.A. caused some early fits for the Lynx, who scored just eight points in the first seven minutes of the game.

Despite the slow start, Minnesota did a great job early on of keeping key Sparks players off the score sheet. After Parker hit the first shot of the game, she didn’t score again in the quarter – or half, for that matter. Ogwumike had just four in the first, while Chelsea Gray struggled, shooting just 1-for-5. The Lynx parlayed some solid defensive play into a 16-15 lead after one.

 

Game of Runs

The Lynx opened things up in the early goings of the second. At one point during the first few minutes, the Lynx went on a 14-4 run to open up a 7-point lead. That lead eventually ballooned up to as many as 11 with around six minutes left in the half. Things were exactly where Moore, Whalen, and company wanted them.

 

And then it all went wrong.

Minnesota couldn’t contain Gray and Ogwumike, who both got going in the final five minutes of the second, sparking a 19-5 run while combining for 23 of the team’s 25 second quarter points. That run sent the Lynx into halftime without an ounce of momentum despite the strong start. Everything that worked for Minnesota in the first 15 minutes – inside scoring, bench production (much of that courtesy of Temi Fabenle), perimeter defense – simply stopped working.

And it didn’t get better to start the third. Minnesota scored just four points in the first six minutes of the second half, while allowing Los Angeles to score 13 in that same stretch. The Core Four couldn’t hit shots while Los Angeles couldn’t miss. It looked like the game was about to get out of hand.

Yet, the Lynx were able to fight back, ending the third on a 9-1 run and cutting the deficit to six points.

 

Moore 4th Quarter Struggles

Minnesota kept it close in the final quarter. Every time it looked like the Sparks were about to run away with it, the Lynx fought back, getting big shots from Whalen and Sylvia Fowles. The Lynx got the deficit all the way down to three but couldn’t get any closer.

Unfortunately for the Lynx, Maya Moore simply couldn’t do anything offensively in the final quarter. If she had, Minnesota definitely could have won. After putting up 14 points in the first three quarters, Moore didn’t score a point in the final 10 minutes. Down by three, Moore had a chance at the free throw line to cut it to one and missed both her attempts. She was just 1-for-5 at the line for the game.

Nothing else worked either. She attempted only four shots in the fourth, missing all of them. Los Angeles did a solid job of eliminating good looks for Moore, but her performance in the final minutes was uncharacteristic. That scoreless quarter will certainly be one that haunts her for a while.

With that, the core of the Lynx that we’ve known and watched for the better part of the last decade is done. Whalen played her last game in a WNBA uniform, one that Rebekkah Brunson had to watch in street clothes due to a concussion. It wasn’t the end anyone in Minnesota wanted but, fittingly, it was a memorable one.

 

Key Stats

 

  • Sylvia Fowles led the way for Minnesota with 18 points and 12 rebounds

  • Temi Fagbenle scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench

  • Minnesota shot just 26.7 percent from three (4-for-15) while Los Angeles shot 36.8 percent (7-for-19)

  • Minnesota shot just 54.6 percent (6-for-11) from the free throw line

  • The Core Four – Moore, Augustus, Whalen, Brunson (DNP) – combined for 28 points on 12-of-34 from the field