With typical home-court hospitality, the Lynx started hot and buried L.A. to grab a series lead.
This showdown of WNBA powers was a mismatch. A beat down by the winner. An embarrassment for the loser.
The Lynx thoroughly dominated Los Angeles in a 94-77 rout on Thursday at Target Center in the opener of the best-of-three Western Conference finals.
The second game will be Sunday afternoon in California. Maybe the real Sparks will show up there.
"[The Lynx] are very good," L.A. coach Carol Ross said. "They are tough, physical and well-coached. They were pounding us on the boards the entire night and, if you are not rebounding, you are not winning."
Second-chance points were 20-2 in the Lynx's favor. Total rebounds tilted 37-25 to the home team.
As usual, Rebekkah Brunson was the Lynx's best battler on the boards. The 6-2 forward, whom teammate Candice Wiggins calls Spartacus, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. This was Brunson's third double-double in four playoff games. She was one rebound short in the other game.
"The Seattle series definitely prepared us to go out there and play," Brunson said, referring to a grind-it-out, three-game opening series with the Storm. "They were extremely physical with us, and we brought that to the table tonight."
Setting the tone before an announced crowd of 8,513 was the Lynx's one-armed woman, Lindsay Whalen. Playing despite a bone bruise on her left wrist, the Lynx point guard scored six consecutive points in the first four minutes. Then, just before the end of the first half, she probably made SportCenter's nightly highlights with a putback basket using her right hand.
Whalen was one of four Lynx in double figures, with 12 points to go with three assists.
"Everybody gets so much from Lindsay Whalen," teammate Maya Moore said. "She plays with so much heart, it is contagious. She makes big plays, puts her body on the line. It elevates everyone. If she wants lunch, I will get her lunch tomorrow."
Then turning to Brunson, sitting next to her in the postgame news conference, Moore said, "And if you want dinner, I will get you dinner."
If the idea is to reward Lynx who played well, somebody needs to at least buy Moore breakfast. She had a nice stats line, too: a team-high 20 points after making four of six three-point shots, with five rebounds and five assists.
Ross said Moore made several back-breaking shots that stopped Sparks rallies. "[Moore] has got that swagger and that competitiveness," Ross said. "She wants the ball and knows what to do when she gets it. She was terrific for them down the stretch."
The Sparks were 2-2 against the Lynx during the regular season -- each team won twice at home -- but Ross said her team has a lot of work to do before the next game.
"They are the defending champions and they didn't get worse in the offseason," she said. "They actually got better. They come at you in waves."
Seimone Augustus was another of those waves, with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Even Amber Harris, who has not played since Sept. 14 because of mononucleosis, had nine points and four rebounds off the bench as the Lynx improved to 19-1 at home (including playoff games) this season.
"On a lot of plays tonight our sense of urgency couldn't touch theirs," veteran L.A. forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said.
Candace Parker, the Sparks' 6-4 center and league MVP runner-up, led L.A. with 25 points. But Kristi Toliver, L.A.'s other big scorer in the playoffs, had only 12 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter -- after averaging 26 in the Sparks' two-game sweep of San Antonio in their opening playoff series.
Despite this dominating performance by the home team, there is this to consider: L.A. is a Lynx-like 17-1 at home.
As Brunson told departing fans over the public-address system, "It isn't over."
|Toronto - WP: A. Sanchez||5||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson||4|
|Washington - WP: D. Fister||4||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos||2|
|Arizona - LP: V. Nuno||2||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: R. Hernandez||4|
|Boston - WP: A. Webster||3||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer||2|
|NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom||2||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson||0|
|Miami - WP: J. Turner||4||FINAL|
|Houston - LP: C. McHugh||2|
|Chicago WSox - LP: R. Belisario||3||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: J. Burton||4|
|Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar||10||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: B. Chen||3|
|St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright||1||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: K. Hendricks||0|
|Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain||1||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Smith||2|
|Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson||7||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: R. Brothers||5|
|Baltimore - WP: T. McFarland||3||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: Y. Medina||2|
|San Diego - LP: E. Stults||3||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: M. Minor||8|
|Oakland - WP: S. Kazmir||9||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: M. Mikolas||3|
|Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu||4||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy||3|