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WNBA-leading Lynx stop L.A.

By Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — In the moment, Seimone Augustus’ fourth-quarter three-pointer was simply the shot that piled on. The Lynx had long cooled the Sparks, their first-quarter fire and toughness long forgotten.

And it was one of many notable threes, another being the basket that gave WNBA-best Minnesota a 10-point lead, a separation that would help get them over the hump in overwhelming a talented but slumping Los Angeles team 88-77 on Tuesday.

Other than that, it was just another three. After all, Augustus — who paired with Maya Moore all night to lead the Lynx — already had notched the Lynx’ all-time scoring record two quarters earlier, passing Katie Smith with 3,607 points, on her second three-pointer of the game.

“Right now, she’s just in there kind of embarrassed like ‘Yeah, that’s great,’” said a doting coach Cheryl Reeve. “And her teammates were just really happy for her, so that says a lot about her as a person.”

And the game said a lot about her ability as a complete player. While she was knocking down six three-pointers (a career high) and scoring 23 points, she was also holding Kristi Toliver, who Reeves said “embarrassed” the Lynx in an L.A.  victory the last time the teams met, to just five points.

A week ago, the Sparks were riding a nine-game winning streak, but losses against bottom-dwellers Chicago and Tulsa had Los Angeles visibly frustrated. On Tuesday, Toliver managed just one basket in seven attempts. At the same time, Player of the Year candidate Candice Parker recorded just six points.

“I thought she just did a great job of just making (Toliver) uncomfortable, just staying down, not falling for some of the fakes that Toliver is so crafty at,” Moore said. “It forced the other players to step up and a few of them did, but it just wasn’t enough.”

The Sparks still mustered some serious pressure in a first half. They shot 55 percent and — fueled by Alana Beard (17 points) and Jenna O’Hea (15) — went on a 9-0 run to erase a 10-point lead.

But in the third quarter, Moore let loose, both offensively and defensively, leaving Reeve to ponder whether there was “more than one Maya” on the floor at a time.

She opened the second half with six consecutive points and had 23 overall, with nine rebounds (four offensive), but even those statistics paled in comparison to the havoc she was wreaking defensively. With her hands often seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Moore harassed ball handlers all night, grabbing a career-high seven steals.

“Oh my gosh, she was just all over the place,” Augustus said, “She was like Cat Woman: she was here, she was there — she did an awesome job.”

Even though the Lynx have won nine in a row, Reeve sees areas to tweak. As good as the Lynx were defensively, there were times when the Sparks had open shots. And despite the 11-point final margin, the Lynx shot just 42 percent from the floor. The Lynx moved four games ahead of the second-place Sparks, but they will have to face LA again on the road, and could see it in the playoffs as well.

“We still have more to do against LA,” Reeve said, “Especially when we go out there and if you look even beyond that, there’s a chance we could meet again. I think it’s important that we’re mindful that there’s still a lot more.”

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