Minneapolis – A dominating, balanced effort by the Minnesota Lynx propelled them past the Los Angeles Sparks, 85-76, Wednesday for their fourth WNBA Championship.
The Lynx have now tied the Houston Comets for most titles, after dominating the Sparks on the boards, 46-29.
Regular-season Most Valuable Player Sylvia Fowles was named the Finals MVP after a 17-point, 20-rebound performance for Minnesota that saw her eclipse her own rebounding record. Maya Moore also had a double-double, with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the team’s other three starters – Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson – also scored in double figures with 17, 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Lynx had a 79-67 lead with 90 seconds to go, when Jantel Lavender scored for the Sparks. Riquna Williams made a pair of free throws and Odyssey Sims stole the ball twice for layups, which pulled them to 79-76 with 35 seconds to go. But Moore made a bucket and Fowles rebounded a missed shot from Sims to secure the win.
It was the second consecutive Finals series that featured the two teams, in almost a replica of last year’s games, with Los Angeles taking Games 1 and 3 and Minnesota winning the second and fourth games. This year, however, it was the Lynx, with the oldest team in the league, that mustered the fire in Game 5 to down a team that was even better than the one that took last year’s trophy.
Fowles said she was motivated by her own lack of rebounding in last year’s fifth game.
“If I didn’t do anything else, I just wanted to make it my business to make sure I just go out there and rebound, as that was my downfall last year,” Fowles said. “Like I said, I fell on the court, and that haunted me for a long time after Game 5 last year. I just wanted to come in and I wanted to show my presence, and if that was rebounding, then rebounding it was.”
Coach Cheryl Reeve said it was especially meaningful to win the title at home, in front of a sold out crowd of over 14,000.
“You know, I mean, it’s just a little bit surreal right now,” Reeve said. “I’m happy we won at home for our fans. Our fans were unbelievable.”
Candace Parker led Los Angeles with 19 points and 15 rebounds, while Chelsea Gray had 15 and Odyssey Sims, 14. Nneka Ogwumike scored 11 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. It was the second straight game where the Sparks tried to catch up after falling behind early.
Sparks coach Brian Agler credited his team’s persistence, but said he “isn’t one to make excuses.”
“I think, with 20-some seconds left, we’re down three. That’s a credit to our team, to fight hard, to put ourselves in position,” Agler said. “We made some really good plays and finished and couldn’t get over the hump.”
Parker said that while losing Ogwumike was hard on the team, it was the rebounding differential that cost them the game.
“Obviously it hurt not having her in the game, but (the lack of rebounding) hurt, honestly,” Parker said. “Our start wasn’t as up-to-par as we wanted it to be, but we cut the lead and we got back in the game, and a couple calls didn’t go our way.”
Players from both teams said this was the most evenly-matched series they’d played in. Going into Game 5, each team had tallied 908 points over the last 12 games against each other.
Brunson has now won five WNBA Championships – four with Minnesota and one with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005.
Fowles became the fourth player in league history to win both a regular-season MVP and Finals MVP award in the same year. She is the seventh player in league history to win both MVP and a title in the same season.