By Jess Myers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Siemone Augustus scored 23 points to lead the Minnesota Lynx to a physical 83-74 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Maya Moore added 20 points for the Lynx, who pulled away in the second half to increase their lead over the Sparks in the standings to 2½ games. It was the fifth consecutive win for Minnesota, which beat the Sparks in the conference finals last season.
Candace Parker scored a game-high 25 points and Kristi Toliver had 14 as Los Angeles lost its second straight.
Trailing by as many as 16 in the second half, the Sparks put together a 13-3 run to pull to 74-68 with a minute remaining. But Augustus hit a long-range jumper and Moore — the conference's player of the month for August — drained four free throws to end the rally.
The teams have one meeting remaining next Thursday in Los Angeles. The home team has won 13 of the last 14 regular season meetings in the series.
Emotions boiled late in the game when a quick shoving match led to technical fouls for Minnesota's Janel McCarville and Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks.
McCarville hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Lynx a 45-33 lead after a first half that featured several momentum swings.
The Lynx hit their first four shots for an 8-0 lead then went 3-for-13 the rest of the first quarter. The Sparks stormed back to tie it at 18 after 10 minutes. Marissa Coleman hit a 3 early in the second quarter to give Los Angeles a 23-20 lead before Minnesota finished the first half on a 25-10 run.
Parker led the Sparks in the first half with 14 points, while Augustus had 10.
Lindsey Whalen was the only Minnesota starter who didn't reach double digits, finishing with nine points, but she had a career-best 14 assists.