WNBA
Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com 75d

Sparks hold court to take 2-1 lead in WNBA Finals

WNBA, Minnesota Lynx, Los Angeles Sparks

LOS ANGELES -- Like a year ago, the Sparks have taken a 2-1 series lead in the WNBA Finals, and can close out the championship at home on Sunday. Last year, they couldn't do it, but then won Game 5 in Minnesota.

What will they do with another chance to win a title at Staples Center?

We'll find out Sunday (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET). The Sparks beat the Lynx 75-64 on Friday, led by 16 points each by Odyssey Sims and Nneka Ogwumike.

As has been the case in all but one of the games in the past two years between these two teams, the team that won the first quarter won the game. The Sparks got off to a 17-8 lead, and led 32-26 at halftime.

The Lynx struggled offensively in the first half, and had to rely on their bench to keep them close. Maya Moore picked up three fouls in the first and was held scoreless in the first 20 minutes. Fellow Lynx starters Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen also didn't score in the first half, as reserve guard Renee Montgomery led Minnesota with 10 points.

The Lynx shot just 31 percent (9 of 29) from the field over the first two quarters, while the Sparks shot 43.8 percent (14 of 32). The Sparks also had 14 points in the paint, compared to six for the Lynx.

But the Lynx were able to battle back, thanks to a strong performance from their bench. The Lynx started the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, and once again, we had a battle.

However, the Sparks pulled away in the closing minutes, and now they have a chance to celebrate with their fans on Sunday.

How the game was won: The Sparks' defense controlled the game early on, as the Lynx struggled to get much going. And that set the tone.

The Lynx were able to make it a game in the fourth quarter, but it was a tough night for the Lynx starting backcourt of Whalen and Augustus, who went scoreless for the night. Moore ended up with 16 points, all in the second half. Sylvia Fowles scored 15.

Player of the game: Candace Parker had 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocked shots. So much of what the Sparks did went through her.

X factor: Both team's benches contributed, and that's what kept the Lynx in the game. They got 27 points from their reserves, led by Montgomery's 12.

Stat of the game: The Sparks' starting backcourt of Sims and Chelsea Gray outscored their counterparts 30-0.

What's next: The teams meet in Game 4 at Staples Center in Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.

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