MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—After two easy wins, the Minnesota Lynx were getting all they could handle from the Los Angeles Sparks. The defending champions persevered and pulled out another victory with a strong finish.
Seimone Augustus scored 25 points to rally the Lynx (3-0) from nine points down in the second half in a 92-84 victory over the Sparks on Thursday night. Rebekkah Brunson scored 17 points, Lindsay Whalen had 14 and Maya Moore added 11.
“Any home win is a great one, and in the fashion we did it, I was really happy we were able to figure it out,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We had some really tough moments earlier and were doing some things that were out of character. L.A. really came at us and made it difficult for us.”
Augustus, who shot 11 for 17 from the field, scored six points in the final 4:17 and Candice Wiggins’ tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:19 remaining put Minnesota ahead for good.
The Lynx closed with a 10-2 run after the Kristi Toliver’s 3-pointer for Los Angeles tied the score at 82-all with 2:47 to go.
“I felt like we played 36 minutes,” the Sparks’ Candace Parker said. “We were up on them for 36 minutes, and then the last four minutes killed us.”
Toliver and Parker scored 23 points each to lead the Sparks (2-1) and rookie Nnemkadi Ogwumike added a season-high 20 points and nine rebounds.
The Lynx were played by turnovers in the first half, committing 13 that led to 11 points for the Sparks.
“It’s uncharacteristic of us to have that many turnovers in the first half of a game,” Augustus said. “I think we were just trying to make the home run play. We had a lot of players running and we wanted to get it there. It wasn’t necessarily panning out for us.”
Parker’s layup with 3.9 seconds to go in the first half gave the Sparks a 47-44 lead at the break. Ogwumike made two free throws in the opening minute of the third quarter and Parker hit a jumper to put Los Angeles up seven.
Whalen’s layup with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third capped the Lynx’s 8-2 run to pull to 53-52. However, the Sparks scored the next eight points, to stretch their lead to 61-52 with 4:53 to go in the quarter.
Minnesota had a 6-0 run, capped by Whalen’s jumper with 9:05 remaining in the fourth to tie the score at 70. Neither team led by more than two points until Moore’s jumper with 3:15 left put the Lynx ahead 82-79.
“The Lynx took that fourth quarter over,” said Sparks coach Carol Ross, who was an assistant with Atlanta last season when the Dream were swept by Minnesota in the WNBA finals. “Some of it was fatigue on our part. We’re a little short-handed in some spots. But good teams find ways to win, and I thought Minnesota did a great job of hanging around and fighting through adversity.”
After winning their first two games by an average of 20 points, the Lynx looked poised for another rout early, scoring the game’s first seven points before the Sparks chipped their way back. Parker had eight points in the first quarter as the Sparks tied the score at 17 with 3:40 to go in the period.
However, Minnesota closed the quarter on a 13-2 run to take a 30-19 lead. The Lynx struggled in the second quarter, though, shooting 5 for 16 and committing nine turnovers.
“We were able to stick together after a second quarter where we didn’t play our best,” said Whalen. “Everybody was able to stick together and make a contribution when they needed to, and I think anytime you have that, it’s a really good sign.”
Parker scored 17 points and Tolliver had 14 to help Los Angeles take its three-point lead at the break.