Lynx beat Sparks 94-77 in Western finals opener


Lynx beat Sparks 94-77 in Western finals opener

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Playing strong close to the basket has the Minnesota Lynx one win away from a return trip to the WNBA finals.

Maya Moore scored 20 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lynx beat the Los Angeles Sparks 94-77 Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference finals.

Seimone Augustus added 16 points for the defending champion Lynx.

Candace Parker scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Alana Beard added 16 points, but Kristi Toliver, who came in averaging 26 points in the playoffs, was held to 12.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday in Los Angeles, where the Lynx are 4-21 all-time.

``It was a really good team win,'' Moore said.

Minnesota held a 37-25 rebounding edge, outscored the Sparks 46-34 in the paint and held a 20-2 advantage in second-chance points to improve to 19-1 at home this season.

``We did not answer or match their physicality and we paid for it,'' said Sparks coach Carol Ross. ``We ended with four offensive rebounds, just one at halftime. You can't survive that way.''

Parker had 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, but only one other Sparks player had more than two - reserve Nicky Anosike with four.

``We really have to put a lot of our focus on our effort and what we do once the ball is shot and it hits the rim,'' said DeLisha Milton-Jones. ``They cannot get second-chance points, because it puts us in a world of trouble.''

Besides Brunson, who has 46 rebounds in four playoff games, including three double-doubles, Augustus had six rebounds for Minnesota, Moore had five, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Amber Harris each had four.

``We just kept going. We never gave up. We never gave in. We knew that was going to be key for this game, to limit their second chance points. They crash the boards pretty hard,'' Brunson said. ``We really locked in. We focused in. We did a great job.''

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was especially impressed by the 42-year-old McWilliams-Franklin keeping rookie Nneka Ogwumike in check. The latter was averaging six boards a game.

``Ogwumike is just so impressive athletically. She has a lot of fast-twitch muscles and Taj doesn't have any, but Taj has intelligence and she plays on angles. And like she said, `Coach, I may not get a rebound, but I will block her out.'''

Minnesota, which averaged a WNBA-best 86 points during the regular season - just two more than Los Angeles, took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Sparks 32-16 for a 48-31 halftime lead.

As part of a 14-2 run, the Lynx scored six points on the break and added another down low before a 3-pointer by Moore finished the surge. After Milton-Jones missed a long jumper for the Sparks, Harris scored her first postseason points with back-to-back layups for a 38-23 lead.

A 3-pointer by Candice Wiggins, steal and layup by Monica Wright, and a 3-pointer by Augustus put the Lynx up 46-26. After Parker scored five straight points for the Sparks, Lindsay Whalen scored on a putback at the buzzer.

Playing with a broken left ring finger and a bruised left wrist, Whalen finished with 12 points.

``She plays with so much heart and it's contagious,'' Moore said.

Minnesota increased its lead to 24 in the third quarter before Parker, who is averaging 27.3 points in the postseason, began to find success down low. She scored eight points during a 16-5 run that got the Sparks within 66-53 late in the quarter.

``This team didn't wait for us to wake up,'' Parker said. ``For three-fourths of the game we laid down and took it.''

Los Angeles pulled to 73-63 midway through the fourth, but the Lynx answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Moore and Wright.

Moore was 5-for-5 from the field in the final quarter.

``She was tremendous. She hit back-breaking shots,'' Ross said. ``She wants the ball and knows what to do with it when she gets it.''

Toliver was quiet through three quarters, with just two points and no assists, before getting 10 points in the final 10 minutes.

``One thing I know about Kristi is that she'll come back stronger in the next game,'' Parker said.

McWilliams-Franklin set a league record by playing in her 59th career playoff game.

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Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

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Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.

Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.

"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."


"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."

Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.


Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.

"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.

Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.