Powering through, Sparks closer to another title

LOS ANGELES-There’s one Los Angeles professional sports team close to winning a championship, and that’s the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks are one game closer to winning back-to-back WNBA championships after winning Game 3 against the Minnesota Lynx with a 75-64 win at Staples Center. The Sparks lead the WNBA Finals 2-1 in a best-of-five scenario.

The Sparks got off to a big lead in the first quarter then had to hold off the struggling shooting Lynx in the final period to wrap of their second win of the series. The Sparks rolled out to a 17-8 lead after the first period. By scoring just eight points, Minnesota matched a mark of scoring the least amount of points in the first quarter by a team in a WNBA Finals contest.

Odyssey Sims goes to the baset for two of the 16 points she scored in Game 3 of the WNBA FInals. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The Sparks also made life miserable for Minnesota star Maya Moore, the WNBA Finals all-time points leader. Moore scored just 16 points in the game, and got into early foul trouble. Sparks forward Candace Parker said the team’s backcourt had a big hand in how the outcome turned out.

“Well, I think our guards did a good job of controlling the tempo,” Parker said afterwards in a postgame press conference. “In games past, even back into the Phoenix series when we’d be up by 11 or 12 with five minutes left, we would slow the ball down and walk it and we wouldn’t get good possessions. We tried to limit as many empty possessions as we can. And I think in the first half a little bit we had spells where we were taking half court shots because we weren’t playing that pace. That’s the key, we’ve still got to cut hard, play hard, even when we’re down the stretch.”

The Sparks’ Jantel Lavender gets into position to try to block Rebekkah Brunson’s shot attempt in Game 3 of the WNBA FInals. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

If the series is go the full five games, Minnesota will need Moore to show up early and often in Game 4. Moore was a virtual disappearing act in the first half, scoring zero points. Her game totals was a reflection of her making six of the nine shots she attempted in the last two quarters of the game. Should Moore repeat her Game 3 performance, the only team headed back to Minnesota will be the Lynx.

With Moore getting in rhythm in the second half of Game 3, that might be the key to the Lynx’s fortunes in Game 4.

“Just trying to be aggressive, just continuing to help my teammates in different ways that I can, and again, just being aggressive,” Moore said. “Starting out the half, scoring in the paint. That always helps, and just trying to be even more aware of trying not to put myself in situations to commit fouls so I can stay out on the floor. A combination of those two things really helped.”

Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker and Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore lock up during Game 3 of the WNBA FInals. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The change maker all season for the Sparks has been guard Odyssey Sims. Her play in the postseason has been no different than what she did during regular season play. On defense, Sims is all over the place,  executing her pressure-on-ball defense. On the offensive side of things, Sims puts that energy to good use, driving, penetrating and putting her teammates in excellent scoring position.

Her numbers in Game 3 would indicate Sims had a pretty pedestrian showing. Matching a tem-high, Sims scored 16 points for the Sparks in Game 3. Despite the win, the Sparks know this series is not over until it’s over. Sims expects Game 4 to be tough.

“I think just going in, as it’s been three games, especially in the second game, Minnesota was really, really aggressive,” Sims said. “That’s something that we have to do a better job of when teams respond. We don’t take up on the challenge, we wait, we wait, we wait to get it done, and that’s something that’s going to be big going into Game 4. It’s something that’s been big all series, but definitely, definitely going into Game 4 on Sunday.”

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