– The Lynx haven’t done anything the easy way this season, so why should their WNBA first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Sparks be any different?

The Lynx never led in the final three quarters on Sunday, losing to the Sparks 81-71 to force a third and decisive Game 3 at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Target Center. The game will be on ESPN2.

In their highest-scoring first half of the season, the Sparks used a 20-4 run in the second quarter to take their largest lead of the game, 53-31.

“You never want to be in a situation where you’re down by that much on the road against a team that’s fighting for a championship like we are,” Lynx star Maya Moore said. “We didn’t hang our head. We didn’t give up. We tried to still make plays. But with that big of a hole, it’s hard.”

The Lynx scored the final four points of the first half and began the third quarter on a 15-2 run to pull to 55-50. They trailed by four points early in the fourth quarter but got no closer. They had too many empty possessions down the stretch.

“I thought our execution was horrendous, when it needed to be great,” coach Cheryl Reeve said.

Moore followed up her 33-point performance in Game 1 with a game-high 27 points, but she also had five of her team’s 16 turnovers.

Candace Parker, after a subpar Game 1, had 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Sparks. She scored 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the second quarter, when Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson was on the bench because of foul trouble.

“I think that that’s what so great about our team,” Parker said. “We’ve been through everything this year — injuries, people coming in and out. We’ve had to fight the whole year.”

The X-factor for the Sparks was Ana Dabovic, one of only two reserves used by coach Brian Agler. Dabovic scored a career-high 19 points to go with seven assists.

Dabovi’s contribution was especially needed after starting forward Nneka Ogwumike left the game in the third quarter because of a neck strain. She did not return.

“She wasn’t feeling very good, obviously,” Agler said. “”I don’t know what the status will be on Tuesday with her.”

Game 2 was played on the campus of Long Beach State because the Emmy Awards were being held Sunday night near Staples Center.