The message coming out of Lynx shootaround this morning was simple: They want to add to history, but they’re not going to rely on it.
The Lynx host the L.A. Sparks in the deciding game of the best-of-three Western Conference semifinals tonight at 8 p.m. at Target Center. There is a reason why the Lynx worked so hard this season to get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and it is deciding games like these. The Lynx are 17-2 all-time at home in playoff games. In the Cheryl Reeve era the team is 16-1 at home.
So what does that mean tonight?
“It’s great to know the history we have here,” Maya Moore said. “But history, at this point, means very little. We have to go out and make sure we take care of our business. We’re not going to rest on our history. We’ll come out and make sure we play better than we did last game.’’
That would be Sunday’s 10-point loss in L.A. in which the Sparks out-scored the Lynx 29-12 in the second quarter, at one point building a 22-point lead. The Lynx answered with a 20-10 third quarter, and got within four in the fourth, but couldn’t get over the hump.
That said, Lindsay Whalen said the way the team played in the second half of Sunday’s game, on the road, can be a positive moving forward.
“You never want to get down like that; that was our fault, that second quarter,” Whalen said. “We weren’t defensively where we needed to be to win a road game. But we can take away a lot of the effort and intensity and just the grit we showed in the second half.’’
Whalen talked like the Lynx may have found a rhythm in that second half. In the third quarter in particular. “It was fun,” she said. “The outcome wasn’t what we wanted. But we came together. We started just playing and playing hard and enjoying all the moments. That’s what it’s all about.’’
Bottom line is the Lynx need to stop the bleeding when L.A. looks to get getting on a roll. They have to play better defense, particularly against Candace Parker and on guard Ana Dabovic, who scored 19 points off the bench for the Sparks Sunday. She has become a real X-factor for the Sparks.
L.A. coach Brian Agler said this morning that forward Nneka Ogwumike, who left Sunday’s game in the third quarter after being hit in the neck, is good to go tonight.
“It wasn’t a concussion or anything,” he said. “She got hit in her neck and it hit a nerve where it sort of triggered some dizziness. So, she went to the doctor and she’s cleared to play.’’
Agler is no stranger to deciding games at Target Center. Agler, the Lynx’s first-ever coach, was coaching at Seattle when the Storm pushed the Lynx to a game three in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals. The Lynx held off Seattle 73-72, but only after Lauren Jackson’s last-second shot missed. He knows all about what tonight’s atmosphere will be like.
“There’s a reason they’re 17-2,” he said. “The crowd gets into it. They’re good fans. Lots of energy. The Lynx play with a lot of confidence at home.’’