Los Angeles Sparks

Balanced Lynx top Parker, Sparks to advance to West finals

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore had 20 points and eight rebounds to help the balanced Minnesota Lynx advance to the Western Conference finals with a 91-80 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 3 of the conference semifinals Tuesday night.

Moore was just 6 for 21 from the floor, but Seimone Augustus added 16 points and Deveraux Peters scored 12 big points off the bench to push the top-seeded Lynx into their fifth straight conference finals. They will play Phoenix, which swept Tulsa in the other semifinal. Game 1 is on Thursday night in Minnesota.

Candace Parker had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Sparks, who haven’t been to the conference finals since 2012. They trailed by 14 points in the first half but rallied to cut the deficit to one in the fourth quarter.

The Lynx responded with a 9-0 run to hold off Los Angeles.

Minnesota improved to 18-2 all-time at home in the postseason, the best record in WNBA history.

Just like everything else this season for the Lynx, who won two championships in three seasons before losing to the Mercury in last year’s conference finals, nothing came easy in this series. They edged the Sparks by two points in Game 1, were beaten convincingly in Game 2 in Los Angeles and had a runaway in Game 3 get a little too close for comfort in the second half.

The Lynx entered the season among the favorites to get out of the West and only bolstered those odds when they acquired Sylvia Fowles from Chicago midway through the season. But injuries to Augustus and Lindsay Whalen made it difficult for them to forge any kind of continuity heading into the playoffs.

After dropping Game 2, the Lynx were in danger of a massively disappointing first-round exit entering the elimination game.

Moore and Augustus struggled mightily in the early going, shooting just 2 for 13 in the first quarter.

But the suffocating Lynx defense squeezed Parker and the Sparks. Los Angeles shot just 26.7 percent in the first quarter and turned the ball over 10 times in the first 13 minutes to fall behind by 14 points.

Parker was whisper quiet in the first half, rendered ineffective by Rebekkah Brunson’s physical defensive presence. She didn’t hit a shot until 90 seconds into the second quarter and didn’t hit her second field goal until there was less than two minutes to play in the half.

She came alive in the third quarter, scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting to bring the Sparks roaring back. Her two free throws with just under nine minutes to go in the game cut the deficit to one, but the Lynx scored the next nine points and Parker gave them another one when she picked up a technical foul for arguing with the officials that gave Minnesota a 75-67 lead with 3:30 to play.

Parker lifts Sparks to 81-71 win over Lynx, forces Game 3

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LONG BEACH, Calif. —¬†Candace Parker scored 25 points to lead the Sparks to an 81-71 win against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday.

The Sparks tied the best-of-three series, 1-1. Game 3 is Tuesday in Minnesota.

Parker scored 15 points in the second quarter, on 5-for-7 shooting. She had eight straight points during a 12-0 run as the Sparks led by 22 points and took a 53-35 lead into halftime.

Ana Dabovic added a career-high 18 points for the Sparks, who won their first playoff game since 2013.

Maya Moore led Minnesota with 27 points. The Lynx started the third quarter on a 15-2 run, capped by Moore’s 3-pointer, to pull to 55-50. They trailed by four points early in the fourth quarter but got no closer.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike left the game in the third quarter with a neck strain and did not return after she was struck in a tangle of players in the paint.

The game was played at Long Beach State because the Emmy Awards were held near Staples Center.

Moore scores career playoff-high 33 to lead lynx past Sparks

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MINNEAPOLIS — When Maya Moore is at the top of her game, she is simply unstoppable.

Moore scored a career playoff-high 33 points to help the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx beat the Sparks 67-65 Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference semifinals series.

“She’s tough for everyone to contain every night,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said.

Moore took over in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and giving the Lynx a lead as big as 12 points, before Los Angeles clawed back into the game late.

“We’re constantly trying to make our own runs and make the next big play,” Moore said. “I was the beneficiary of some active plays in our paint. We got deflections, got tips. I just try to be aggressive and see what happens.”

Seimone Augustus, back after missing the last eight games of the regular season due to a foot injury, added 17 points for the Lynx.

“I died in the first two or three minutes,” Augustus joked of her return to the lineup. “Once I got into the groove it all felt normal and it felt like I was back.”

Candace Parker had 16 points and nine rebounds and Nneka Ogwumike added 14 points for Los Angeles.

The Sparks used a 9-0 run to pull to 61-60 on Jantel Lavender’s layup with about 5 minutes to go. However, Moore’s fast-break basket gave Minnesota a three-point lead with just over a minute to play.

Los Angeles had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Parker missed a shot under the basket as time expired.

“We didn’t run it perfectly but we got the action we wanted and got Candace coming to the ball on the move,” Agler said. “She took a shot she can make. Hindsight is 20-20 and you think about a lot of things that could’ve happened, but sometimes you’ve got to let players make plays.”

Dominated by Minnesota in the opening quarter and trailing 22-15 after 10 minutes, the Sparks flipped the script in the second quarter. They started with a 14-1 run and led by as many as eight. Minnesota, which made just four of its 14 shots from the field in the quarter, managed to chip away late, but Los Angeles led 36-33 at halftime.

Moore led all scorers with 12 points at the break. Parker and Kristi Tolliver led the Sparks with nine points each.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday at Long Beach State due to the Emmy Awards taking place near Staples Center. Sparks players bristled at the idea that they will lose their home-court advantage playing away from their normal arena.

“It’s not neutral,” Ogwumike said. “It’s still L.A., and we’ve played there before. It’s a home game.”