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Lynx-Sparks Preview

Sep 10, 2009 - 10:38 PM By DAN PIERINGER STATS Writer

Minnesota (14-18) at Los Angeles (16-16), 10:30 p.m. EDT

The Los Angeles Sparks clinched a trip to the playoffs with a win in their last game. They also did the Minnesota Lynx a favor by defeating a team still competing for the Western Conference's final spot.

The Lynx look to take another step toward snapping a four-year playoff drought as they visit the Sparks on Friday night.

Los Angeles (16-16) pulled back to .500 and secured a postseason spot by rallying for a 76-68 win over San Antonio on Tuesday night. Lisa Leslie scored 18 and Noelle Quinn added 15 as the Sparks erased a 10-point, second-quarter deficit.

"We just really fought hard on both ends of the court, which is really unusual for us," Leslie said. "We need to make that a habit."

The Lynx (14-18) have to be glad the Sparks played as hard as they did because the win helped their chances of beating out the Silver Stars for the last available playoff berth. Minnesota then did its part with a 75-72 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night in its regular-season home finale.

Minnesota scored nine straight points in the final minutes, a run that included Anna Montanana's putback with 28.6 seconds remaining that gave it the lead for good. The Lynx had lost their previous five games decided by four points or fewer.

"They've been through a lot of these games not being able to close in the end," said coach Jen Gillom, whose team is in contention despite losing leading scorer Seimone Augustus in its sixth game. "Now it's paying off for us. In those situations, they are able to keep their composure and win games."

Minnesota has a game in hand on San Antonio, which owns the tiebreaker.

The Lynx won their first game against the Sparks 87-76 on June 10, thanks in large part to Augustus' 30 points. But they've lost both meetings since Augustus went down with a knee injury, falling 76-70 at home and 78-63 on the road.

Despite those results, Gillom likes Minnesota's chances.

"This team hasn't given up yet and they won't. That's what I love most about this team, they fight until the end," Gillom told the Lynx's official Web site. "... Right now I think those girls are saying, 'bring it on.'"

Sparks forward Tina Thompson, in her first season with Los Angeles following 12 with now-defunct Houston, has averaged 17.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games against Minnesota.

Candice Wiggins, Minnesota's second-leading scorer behind Augustus, has been held to 30.0 percent shooting (12 for 40) from the field against Los Angeles.

The Lynx close the regular season at last-place Sacramento on Sunday night. The Sparks visit conference-leading Phoenix earlier that day.