All of my normal Friday night routine has come to a halt. It’s opening night of the 2011 WNBA season and the Minnesota Lynx are in LA about to take on a healthy Candace Parker and the Sparks. For some absolutely asinine reason, it’s not on TV unless you happen to have NBA TV and who the hell has that? I’m livestreaming it from WNBA.com’s LiveAccess. And you’re damn right I’m liveblogging this. FRIDAY NIGHT LADY BASKETBALL PARTY. (I’d make that blinking text if I remembered how.)
Pregame Notes: The announcers are bad and it’s just pregame, so I’m hoping it gets better when they’re not forced to make idle chitchat. Maya Moore’s first regular season game is tonight. She’s got some major expectations to fill tonight and the rest of the season, so it should be interesting to see how she meets those… especially since she couldn’t get the Huskies to NCAA championship this past year. Just sayin’. Also, I still love Coach Gillom more than I’ll ever love the Lynx’ current coach.
Starters for the Lynx: Lindsey Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Rebekah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
Starters for the Sparks: Noelle Quinn, Candace Parker, Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
First Quarter: Maya Moore’s firing one after another from three-point land — 1 for 3 in the first quarter from behind the arc. I love Lindsey Whalen. She’s a point guard, yes? Yet, halfway into the first quarter, she’s hit two baskets from inside the lane and snagged a rebound. I’m excited to see Maya Moore do some of that. Curious if the Lynx will end up with a sponsor like Farmers Insurance sponsors the Sparks, especially after this year. (Vikings fans note: Apparently Farmers Insurance has also bought the naming rights to the football stadium they’re planning on building in LA soon. Now you know where the Vikings may be playing.) Candice Wiggins, Alexis Hornbuckle, Amber Harris and Charde Houston enter the game after a timeout and the team winds up with a shot clock violation. Oops. Charde’s hair is gone! I’m sure we’ll see some fantastic styles throughout the season, but I kind of like it all gone. Especially if she can hit consistent threes like that. Huh. Seems the defensive rebounding hasn’t improved much this far (10 minutes) into the season. The Lynx guards look hot right now, but that’s nothing new. Sparks lead 18-16 after the first quarter. Lynx have attempted seven threes in the first quarter. Seems like a lot?
Second Quarter: Lynx give up a quick basket by missing some big rebounds. Granted, Jantel Lavender was banging around to grab the rebound, but c’mon. She’s a rookie. REBOUND. Sparks subbing in a whole new squad of five at the 7:30 mark. That’s some awesome depth. Timeout after Candace Parker drains a three since it wasn’t all that important to guard her. “Trying to go to the bank. No deposit,” says the male announcer. “I want to kick you in the nuts,” I say out loud. The Sparks are passing and setting screens that the Lynx are having trouble keeping up with, which is resulted in a couple of threes so far. Hopefully that’s something Coach Reeves will address at halftime. They just showed a commercial about how the WNBA Cares and volunteers for all these organizations. And then they showed Diana Taurasi. You know that shit was court-ordered community service, right? (It probably wasn’t, but I like to start my trash talking early in the season.) Loose ball = Lindsey Whalen busting her ass to get it. I love to see that. Lynx end with a 7 point run and wind up leading at the end of the half: 43-37.
Third Quarter: This is the time where I’d love Seimone to light this game on fire. Although, I wouldn’t complain if Lindsey Whalen did either. The announcers return to terrible talking about how Taj’s last name doesn’t fit on her jersey and comparing Candace Parker to a large white male German basketball player. And an ugly one at that. Ever watch someone standing behind the arc get the ball and automatically you make that face like, “Oh no no no no no no no, please don’t shoo…” and then it’s too late because they’ve already heaved it up into the basket’s general direction? That just happened with me when Taj launched a three from the top of the arc. Noelle Quinn looks really good this quarter. I liked her a lot when she played for the Lynx, but she seems to have found a great home with the Sparks. The post players still seem to scared to play hard in the paint most of the time, on defense and offense. A tirade of three pointers helped the Sparks regain a 59-57 lead to end on a 16-5 run at the end of the third. Feels like the Lynx of last year right now… even with a heck of a better lineup.
Fourth Quarter: Amber Harris and Taj make for a huge front court. I’d really like to see them figure out how to play strong together. Not at all basketball related, but if I was going to change my last name, O’HEA would be a strong option. Seimone is uncomfortably quiet tonight, at least for me. The second chance points for the Sparks are killing the Lynx tonight. Taj seems to be the kind of post the Lynx need: can pass, can read the floor, can be a little rough in the middle. Hopefully she’ll end up being a good mentor for Amber Harris. (Yep, I kind of love Amber Harris.) Timeout with 4:41 left in the game, with LA leading 71-67. This is the point in the game where if I were watching it in person I wouldn’t sit down and would get annoyed at the people that were starting to leave early. Uh, Maya Moore (the rookie) giving about 5 shot fakes to Tina Thompson (who’s been in the league since 1997 and Maya Moore was 8 years old) to draw the file and she’s won my affection for the season. This kid is dynamite. Ugh. Lynx: I love you, but you’ve got to do some blocking out and rebounding. It’s going to hurt all.season.long if you don’t figure it out. It’s not like this is a new problem. 46 seconds left and now the intentional fouling begins, which is my least favorite thing of all time in basketball. Taj fouls out after giving her last one to stop the clock and the replace her with Wiggins, putting four really good three-point shooters on the floor. Huh. Interesting call on a play where Tina Thompson attempted to save a ball going out of bounds by throwing it against Maya Moore. There wasn’t really a camera angle that could confirm or deny that, so the officials gave the ball to the Sparks with 25.8 seconds left in the game and the Lynx down by six points.
Final: Sparks 82, Lynx 74. Sparks have a hella deep bench. Lynx have the talent, but still look the same as last year — lack of consistency to end out the game and a bare bones crew that can rebound the ball. I’m hoping Sunday’s better since we’ll be there live at the Target Center watching the same match up.