MINNEAPOLIS — Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler had just finished with a split in the first two games of the WNBA Finals in Minnesota and was asked about his feeling heading back home for two games.
The home-court advantage in the series had seemingly flipped in Los Angeles' favor when the Sparks took Game 1 with a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot by 12-year veteran Alana Beard. Following the Game 2 loss, Agler didn't seem at ease despite heading to Los Angeles with a split.
“You know, I'm glad we won a game,” Agler said, almost tentative of his team's chances against the defending champion Lynx. “You're sitting back and saying, 'Well, that team has got to win on the road. That's going to be very important,' and it is, there's no question about it. But from my seat now, I don't really look at it that way. I just sort of focus on the next game…
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“Our focus right now is to win one more game. That's what we want to do. We want to win one more game, and then we'll see where we stand and we'll go from there.”
Minnesota won Game 2 on Tuesday night, 79-60, finally pulling away in what had been a close series until the second quarter on Tuesday. Game 3 is Friday at the Galen Center.
Agler's hesitancy is fitting a series against the Lynx, who are seeking their fourth championship in six years. Last year, Minnesota lost the first game on its home court before beating Indiana in five games. The Lynx won Game 2 at home before going on the road and taking back the home-court advantage with a Game 3 win in Indiana.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus said after 14 points in Tuesday's victory. “Like you said, we were in this position before, last year. And, I mean, the thing for us is we know what we needed to do.”
The Lynx have been in a similar position not only in recovering from a blown Game 1. Minnesota's core has been around during their championship runs.
Augustus, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson have been key players on each of the championship teams. Even relative newcomer Sylvia Fowles has played nine WNBA seasons and was on last year's title team, winning the Finals MVP.
Los Angeles features one player with Finals experience in seldom-used center Ann Wauters.
The inexperience might have shown on Tuesday when the Sparks' couldn't counter the Lynx big runs.
“Everybody just kind of has to do a better job of helping one another,” Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver said. “Sometimes it's hard in an environment like this, and it just feels like everything is going a mile a minute. You kind of just have to take a pause sometimes, and I think (Tuesday) we didn't take that pause.”
Los Angeles led the league during the regular season by shooting 48.7 percent from the floor. On Tuesday, the Sparks shot just 32.9 percent (23 of 70). League MVP Nneka Ogwumike took just six shots, making five in a 14-point performance.
Meanwhile, the Lynx controlled the boards with a 46-32 rebounding advantage.
“I think there's only one statistic that maybe there's a separator between the two teams, and it's rebounding,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “So, we might as well try to use it to our advantage, and it gives you the extra possessions. We got some good hustle plays.”
Moore, who was third in MVP voting behind Ogwumike and New York's Tina Charles, was the star of Game 2. Moore scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the game, and keyed a 17-3 lead in the second quarter as the Lynx took control of the game and changed the outlook of the series.
“It's a series,” Toliver said. “I said after Game 3 when we lost in Chicago (in the semifinals) that we weren't going to sweep them, and we're not going to sweep now in the Finals. We're still a confident group. We still feel good.
“We came here to do what we wanted to do, and that was to get one (win). We feel pretty good about that, and now we need to take care of business at home.”