Sylvia Fowles was surprised by the news, but only because she thought all the WNBA awards had been handed out already.
But the news itself isn’t that surprising. Fowles, the 2017 WNBA MVP, was named to the All-WNBA first team, receiving 39 out of a possible 40 votes. Perhaps a slight surprise is teammate Maya Moore joining Fowles in the first team. Moore had a strong season, but it might have been her strong finish that convinced voters.
They were joined on the first team by Dallas guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, New York forward Tina Charles and L.A. Sparks forward Candace Parker.
“I’m happy to be a part of it,’’ Fowles said. “It shows all the hard work I put in throughout the season. So I’m honored. And Maya with me, that’s always a good thing.’’
Fowles has been All-WNBA six times, but this is her third year on the first team. Moore was selected to the first team for the fifth straight season.
“That means Sylvia and I have been playing the way we need to play for our team to be great,’’ Moore said. “You never take that for granted, just to be able to be healthy enough to play all season, to play well.’’
The second team consisted of center Brittney Griner and guard Diana Taurasi from Phoenix, guard Chelsea Gray and forward Nneka Ogumike from Los Angeles and Connecticut center Jonquel Jones.
It’s no surprise how competitive the WNBA finals are, considering five of the 10 players named for the two teams are on either the Lynx or Sparks roster.
Here are some other thoughts from today’s morning shoot as both teams got ready for Game 3 tonight at Staples Center.
--Given how important strong starts have been in this series, and the fact that both teams have spent two days talking about it, it will be interesting to see how the first quarter unfolds tonight.
“I think both teams will be mindful that fast starts have hurt each team,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Obviously we’ll try to avoid letting L.A. get off to a fast start, they’re going to do the same. It’s a test of wills.’’
Said Fowles: “It’s going to be physical. I think it will be a grind. Especially since L.A. is back at home. I’m sure they’ll be energized.’’
--The winner tonight at Staples Center in Los Angeles will gain a 2-1 edge and a chance to close out the best-of-five series Sunday. A Lynx win would, at minimum, mean a trip back home to Williams Arena should a Game 5 be needed.
Despite wild swings, each of the first two games ended with final-possession pressure; in Game 1 Chelsea Gray’s 14-footer with 2 seconds left gave L.A. a one-point victory. In Game 2 Gray had the ball, down two, with the clock ticking away. This time, though, Rebekkah Brunson stripped the ball from here, sealing a Lynx win.
I was curious to find out if the players feel as agonized and on-edge as fans do when games are going down the wire, as the last three between these team have, dating back to last year’s Game 5 Lynx loss.
Turns out: No.
“I think it’s more of a joy for us,’’ Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen said. “I think for our fans, our families watching, it’s more agonizing for them. We can control what we do on the floor. We’re in the moment. But, when you’re out there, sometimes it’s just like you appreciate the high level of basketball that’s being played.’’
I asked Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve the same question. “For me, there is some joy and some agonizing,’’ she said. “I’m probably in between the fans and the players. I still have some control, I have to remain focused. But I can’t imagine the roller coaster we’ve put the fans on. And the same for L.A. fans. It’s going up and down, backwards and forwards. It’s like Valley Fair.’’
Both teams have had leads of 20 points or more. The Sparks had a 26-point first-quarter lead only to have the Lynx take two one-point leads in the final minute of the game before Gray’s game-winner. In Game 2 the Lynx saw a 20-point third-quarter lead almost slip away.
“That’s just great basketball,’’ Seimone Augustus said. “That’s what people pay to see. These are fun games to play in. I know it’s been fun to watch.’’
Well, maybe fun and a bit agonizing.
Augustus stuck at zero
This has never happened before.
Seimone Augustus has been a WNBA Finals MVP. She has been and still is a linchpin for a Lynx team that is playing in its sixth Finals in seven years.
But Friday in Staples Center, in the third game of the WNBA Finals, she was held without a point, a first in her playoff career.
Augustus played 25 minutes and took only four shots. She had a rebound, an assist. But she was a minus-18 on a night when things just wouldn’t go her way.
It didn’t help that she inherited Sparks stopper Alana Beard when Moore left the game with three fouls early in the second quarter. But the aggression just wasn’t there.
And that was hard.
“You never want to feel you’re not being effective or not doing enough for your team when you’re on the floor,’’ she said. “So I have to be more aggressive, more assertive. When your moments come, you have to try to find it.’’
And, she promised, she would. What happened Friday won’t happen in Game 4 Sunday?
“No,’’ she said, ‘’it won’t.’’
Jones steps up
One surprise out of Friday’s game was the play of Lynx rookie Alexis Jones, who was put in the game with the starters struggling and nearly helped bring the Lynx back. She made three, three pointers.