LOS ANGELES – Before Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve thought she knew the type of game that would unfold at Galen Center. She anticipated a tight, back-and-forth battle between two teams playing at the highest level, and she expected Los Angeles to come back with much more urgency than it showed in a Game 2 loss.
Reeve was right about the Sparks. Her own team, however, didn't hold up its end Friday, failing to match the Sparks' intensity in a dismal 92-75 loss. After falling into a 22-point hole in the first quarter, the Lynx cut the deficit to eight at halftime. They never got any closer, as Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series while moving one victory away from its first WNBA championship since 2002.
The Sparks righted everything that went wrong in a 19-point drubbing in Game 2 at Target Center. Candace Parker, held to six points, poured in 24 before a home crowd announced at 8,093. Los Angeles outrebounded the Lynx for the first time in the series, pulling down 29 rebounds — including 11 offensive boards — and forced 13 Lynx turnovers, which it converted into 24 points.
While the Sparks subdued the Lynx with a fierce defense, the Lynx offered little resistance for long stretches. They were outscored 52-32 in the paint and allowed the Sparks to make seven of 15 three-pointers. They did not secure the lane, giving up a rash of layups.
Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson led the Lynx with 14 points each, while Maya Moore finished with only nine. Reeve was seething during much of the game, and she was still steamed long after the final buzzer.
"Give all the credit to LA,'' she said. "I don't know at any point in time did we think it was going to be different than what they did in terms of aggression and their persistency. We talked a lot about that. They were going to be persistent.
"They won the persistency battle. We didn't rise to the occasion. We were soft. We were feeble. Did I see that coming? Absolutely not, and it was disappointing, to say the least.''
Parker had her best game of the series and said her coaches and teammates challenged her to be better. She made 11 of 19 shots and had nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 and also had nine rebounds, and Essence Carson added 16 points, making all four of her three-point attempts.
Parker said she had been "nonexistent'' in every meeting between the Sparks and Lynx this season.
Fowles blocked the first three shots the Sparks took Friday, swatting away two from Ogwumike and one from Parker.
That didn't discourage Parker, who dug in and scored 10 points in a first-quarter barrage that buried the Lynx. The Sparks scored the game's first seven points, then took off on a 23-6 run. After scoring a total of 60 points in Game 2, they scored 32 in the first quarter Friday.
"We had a game plan of just going to the basket and trying to be aggressive,'' Parker said. "My teammates played well in Game 1 and Game 2, but I was just there. We've worked too hard to get to this point to just be there.
"I'm proud of our team and our mentality. Like [Carson] was talking about, our mentality that we're going to play hard, we're going to play our game, and then we're going to live with the results.''
The Lynx got more postseason awards before Game 3 began. Moore was chosen first team all-WNBA, and Fowles was named to the second team. Ogwumike, voted the league's MVP earlier this month, headlined the first team as the only unanimous selection and was joined by Moore, Tina Charles of New York, Elena Delle Donne of Chicago and Sue Bird of Seattle.
The Sparks' lead grew to 30-8 in the first quarter, with 18 of those points in the paint. The Lynx trailed 32-17 at the end of the quarter, then regrouped to pull within 48-40 at halftime. They closed the half with a 16-4 run, holding Los Angeles without a point over the final 4:20.
The Lynx were unable to make up any more ground, leaving their coach frustrated.
"It's a want-to thing,'' Reeve said. "It's nothing tactical. It's that [the Sparks] wanted the ball. And whoever [wants the ball] in Game 4 is going to win.''
Lynx center Janel McCarville injured her back in the third quarter and did not return to the game.