By Dennis J. Freeman
Los Angeles-Candace Parker and Maya Moore gave the WNBA what it wanted as the league pitted the two stars together in the first official game of the regular season for both teams. However, it was the play of Noelle Quinn down an important stretch of the game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx that gave the hometown team the win.
Quinn, who attended Bishop Montgomery High School and later starred at UCLA, has been prodded by teammates to take more shots in a game. As a high school and college phenom, scoring was no problem for Quinn. But with so many great players on the Sparks team, Quinn sometimes regulates herself to taking a backseat in the scoring department.
Against Minnesota, Quinn attempted just three shots in the first half. The Sparks trailed at halftime. Midway through the third quarter, Los Angeles faced a deficit of nine points. Quinn then decided to go to work. Scoring nine of her 11 points in the third quarter, Quinn helped the Sparks overcome a 52-43 hole enroute to a 82-74 win at Staples Center.
Shooting the ball more often is something her team needs, Quinn admits.
“They’re in my ear about that all year, to be able to take open shots,” said Quinn. “That’s going to open it up more for my teammates. The shots that I get…I need to be able to take those shots. It’s better for our team as a whole.”
Parker showed Minnesota that she’s back. Behind the spectacular play of Parker, the Sparks resembled the dominating team they were before she went away for most of the season last year, trying to recover from surgery.
Parker scored 19 points and snatched 10 rebounds to lead the Sparks. Parker also added three assists and three block shots in a strong all-around performance. Moore, a two-time Wooden Award winner in college and a rookie with Minnesota, led all players with 21 points and grabbed four rebounds.
““It was great,” Moore said. “I had a lot of fun out there. The environment was intensive. The crowd was great. It was a real competitive basketball game. It always helps when you’re making your shots. I thought it was a great experience.”
Thanks to the clutch shooting of Quinn in the third quarter, the Sparks firmly took control of the game.
The backdrop behind the game, however, was how well would Parker and Moore both play if they were matched up against one another. That didn’t happen too often. Both players played well. Parker, after missing a large bulk of the Sparks’ season last year after having a surgery to fix a lingering shoulder injury, came into the season with a mission to return to her dominant form.
For much of the game, Parker played like her old self, grabbing rebounds with ease, leading the fast break and playing stifling defense. Moore played exceptionally well in her first regular season game.
After being outplayed by Minnesota in the first half, the Sparks picked up the slack midway through the third quarter. Minnesota played Los Angeles even in the first quarter with both teams ending the period tied at 18.
Minnesota then outscored the Sparks 25-19 in the second quarter to take a 43-37 advantage into halftime. The Sparks earned their win of the season, thanks in part to their defensive play in the final quarter of the game, limiting Minnesota to 35 percent shooting. Minnesota converted just five of the 14 shots they attempted in the fourth quarter.
“We got down by nine from standing and watching and not playing good defense and rebounding the ball,” Parker said. “We just buckled down in the second half and we were able to get that run, knock down shots.”
The Sparks, getting solid play in the fourth period from Jenna O’Hea and DeLisha Milton-Jones, outscored Minnesota 23-17 to seal the win.