Los Angeles Sparks a win away from repeating as WNBA champs
By JILL PAINTER LOPEZ
Oct. 01, 2017
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike was sporting a clear bandage under her eye Saturday. It wasn't hiding the five stitches she received after Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles used her arm to attempt track down a rebound in the fourth quarter in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
Ogwumike was quick to say Fowles didn't do it intentionally.
"I saw it happening and it was like a fumble and when she went to get it she kind of flung her arm," Ogwumike said. "It just kind of split the skin. But I think AB (Alana Beard) came up with the rebound."
It's easy for the Sparks to find silver linings. They dominated the boards en route to beating the Lynx 75-64 in Game 3 on Friday and they're now one win away from hoisting the WNBA Finals championship trophy Sunday at Staples Center.
The Sparks have plenty of experience given that they won last year and can become the first team since 2002 to win back-to-back titles.
"I think we have players that are competitors. We have players that know the way we want to play," Candace Parker said. "Look, I can tolerate just losing in terms of us beating beat, them beating us. We want to make sure it's what they're doing and not what we're doing in a game like this. We have to take care of what we can control.
"We can control how hard we rebound and how hard we play defensively, how we move offensively, the pace with which we play. That's what's important in this game, keeping both eyes on the journey."
The Sparks could envision hoisting that trophy with their fans — there was a sellout crowd of 13,500 Friday in Game 3 — and how nice that would feel. Last year, the Sparks won in Minnesota.
The Lynx face elimination but can force a Game 5 in Minnesota on Wednesday with a win. They were in a similar situation last year and forced a fifth game.
Fowles said she and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had a one-on-one conversation Saturday morning.
"I think for the most part we respond well when our backs are against the wall," Fowles said. "I don't like those back-up-against-the-wall type of situations. Unfortunately, that's where we are at this point. You just have to keep fighting and battling and take what comes, that's Game 4. If we want to stay alive in this thing we have to make sure we're energized and into what's going on."
Asked if she had a one-on-one talk with all of her players, Reeve simply said "no."
While the Sparks had a balanced offense, the Lynx backcourt struggled as Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen were both scoreless.
"I've got to be more aggressive," Augustus said. "I've got to get the ball. I can't shoot air. Our offense was very stagnant. Didn't execute the way we wanted to, so it created a lot of one-on-one situations for everything. Forces Sylvia to have to score with two people guarding her. Forces Maya to have to take contested shots. When we are efficiently flowing in our offense, I feel like no team can guard us. I wasn't able to get as many touches because of how out of sync we were."
Reeve's challenge to the starters was well taken.
"Everything she says we know," Moore said. "She's very straightforward about telling us how it is. We as leaders have to continue to embrace that and do our best to improve and make changes and adjustments here and there to make sure we don't have issues we cause ourselves."
The Sparks believe they will play well in a closeout situation.
"I think we're a different team, even from the semifinals," Ogwumike said. "We've learned a lot along the way. We have experience, I guess you could say, in closing games out. Throughout the season, coach (Brian Agler) talks about winning each series. You play everybody three times and Dallas four times. I think we won every series with the exception of Dallas. We tied that series.
"With that, that's the mindset we have going in to this game. Just doing what we have to do to win this game. Everyone is pretty focused on that."