Lynx beat Sparks in Finals Game 5 to win their 4th WNBA title
- Box score
- Game 1 Recap
- Game 2 Recap
- Game 3 Recap
- Game 4 Recap
- Video: Sylvia Fowles Game 5 Highlights
- Postgame Transcripts
The Minnesota Lynx won their fourth WNBA title Wednesday night, beating the Los Angeles Sparks 85-76, in front a sellout crowd at Williams Arena in the last game of a best-of-five series. With the victory, the Lynx tied the Houston Comets for the most championships by a single team in league history.
In addition, Lynx starting forward Rebekkah Brunson became the first player to earn five WNBA titles. Her first championship came with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005. She joined the Lynx in 2010. Minnesota previously won titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
The Lynx led from wire-to-wire, with the team’s starters putting in heavy minutes, holding off the Sparks despite several runs by Los Angeles. Minnesota started the game on a 7-0 run with Brunson contributing four points in that initial spurt. Candace Parker scored first for the Sparks with a layup bringing her team out of a drought that lasted over three minutes. The Sparks plugged away at the deficit to get within two of their opponent by the end of the first quarter.
“We knew it was going to come down to our starters and their starters,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve about game five. “Obviously that was how the series was defined. We also thought getting off to a good start was important. We did that. I thought we showed a will to win. I know L.A. wanted to win. They hung in there. For us to come out the way that we did, and you get through the end of the first quarter, I think it was a two-point game. So we knew we were in for a battle.”
The Lynx kept Los Angeles at bay in the second quarter outscoring them 20-16. Minnesota went into the break with a 41-35 lead. In the third and fourth quarter, no matter how hard the Sparks worked to try and tie the game up, Minnesota had an answer.
It was a very physical contest with players on both teams, including veterans like the Lynx’s Lindsay Whalen the Sparks’ Candace Parker, providing tenacious defense, diving for balls and putting their bodies to the test.
“At the end of the day, it’s players like Lindsay Whalen who has a will to win that’s second to none,” said Reeve about the gritty play. “Some of the plays, diving on the floor for a loose ball, that’s the stuff we talk about. Everyone wants to talk about who scores, but it’s those plays in those moments that win a game for you.”
In addition, Los Angeles’s star forward Nneka Ogwumike was in foul trouble for much the game. She fouled out with 5:29 left in the fourth quarter.
However, even with Ogwumike out, Sparks players stepped up to get within three points of Minnesota in the last minute.
Led by Maya Moore, all five of the Lynx’s starters scored in the game. Moore finished with 18 points plus 10 rebounds. Sylvia Fowles also had a double-double of 17 points plus a whopping 20 rebounds along with four assists and three blocks. Whalen contributed 17 points plus eight assists. Seimone Augustus added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. Brunson was also in double figures with 13 points plus eight rebounds.
After the game, Fowles was named the 2017 WNBA Finals MVP.
“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to keep her off the glass,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler about Fowles’ rebounding production. “We tried to eliminate staying in a rotation as much as we could, tried to keep bigger bodies on them, but they were persistent, more persistent than we were, especially in the first 20 minutes.”
Parker paced the Sparks with 19 points plus 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Chelsea Gray scored 15 points and dished out eight assists. Odyssey Sims contributed 14 points while Ogwumike finished with 11 points.
The Lynx will celebrate their victory with a parade and rally Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. local time. The parade route will begin at the corner of 12th Ave. S.E. and University Ave. and continue to University Ave. to Williams Arena.
Sylvia Fowles Game 5 Highlights
- Sylvia Fowles became the seventh player to win a regular season MVP and WNBA title in the same season and the fourth player to win multiple Finals MVP honors.
- Fowles posted her 20th postseason double-double in game five and recorded a double-double in every Finals game.
- Fowles grabbed 20 total rebounds, the most in Finals history, surpassing the mark of 17 she set in Game 2. With 10 rebounds in the first half, Fowles tied a Finals record for most rebounds in one half.
- Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen, who entered game four of The Finals already ranked No. 1 & No. 2 in Finals games played, respectively, upped their respective totals to 34 & 31.
- Brunson entered the game ranked No. 1 in Finals total rebounds and increased that total to 210.
- Whalen entered as the Finals all-time leader in assists with 120 and upped her total to 128.
- Moore entered ranked 1st in postseason field goals made and increased her total to 372.
Q. Lindsay was just saying that the more that you win, the harder it gets, the more special it gets. Do you agree? Was this the hardest —
CHERYL REEVE: You just don’t understand. I mean, I know that we have developed these expectations. I get it. And when you get the No. 1 seed, everybody just looks, hey, you’re the No. 1 team, you should win. And I just can’t explain to you in words what it’s like to be those guys and to have to walk that walk every single day of greatness, of expectations every single day.
Now, they wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s just incredibly draining, and every night we play, we get a team’s best effort, like every night throughout the regular season. This isn’t a case where we’re surprising people.
And so it takes a toll on you. I just give them so much credit for their fortitude. Obviously we lost Game 1 and gave up our home-court advantage right away in the first eight minutes of the series, we gave up home-court advantage. The toughness they displayed in Game 4 was unbelievable. Game 4 was really awesome. Last year this Game 4 out in LA last year was just unreal.
But we knew. You know, all you did was win Game 4. You had to come back here and find a way to close it out on your home floor. We knew we’d have a rocking crowd and they were unbelievable, but at the end of the day we had to make more plays than them. Getting to the foul line — we finally made our free throws. I don’t know if you guys know this, but throughout the playoffs we shot like 63, 64 percent, which was not — it was uncharacteristic of our team, and so I was thrilled today that we were able to — I guess we saved it for Game 5, and it came at a good time.
Q. You guys had Lindsay and then you get Maya the next year, now it’s four titles in seven years. What’s this road been like?
CHERYL REEVE: I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to just be around these guys every day. You know, most importantly about this group, we let each other be ourselves, and there is so much to be said for that. I’m not easy to be around, and our staff — I think about our daily process together, and like I said, you guys aren’t in it every day, so you don’t know. Obviously it’s the most special time in our lives from a professional standpoint, but it’s the people. It’s the people that we do it with that just — we’re in it for life, this group. We’re in it for life, and that’s just an incredible blessing that I feel to be able to be around it every single day.
Q. Stemming from last year’s Finals, you talked a lot about wanting to get Syl more involved. How does that feel to know as a group you delivered in that, and then watching her seemingly through the series get better as each game wore on?
CHERYL REEVE: You know, I just watched Game 5 from last year before this game, and I thought, Sylvia Fowles was awful. She was awful in Game 5, and all I thought was, my goodness gracious did we have some success in transforming her into such a dominant presence that put a pressure on their defense like nobody else could. We were relentless. We had some bad play calling early in the series where we would go through stretches with Syl not getting touches. Just ridiculous. And we vowed in Game 4, we said all you guys talked about was a small lineup. Game 3, I’d go with the small lineup. At the end of the day, we lose the game, and we say, you know what, we’ve got to be ourselves because ourselves was good enough to get us here, and if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down being ourselves, and that was — we were going to center this thing around Sylvia Fowles. Rebecca Brunson was going to do what she’s great at. Lindsay, Seimone, Maya, we’ll get them their touches; they’re going to play off of Syl. And we just made a concerted effort that we were not going to spend another three, four minutes, a quarter, a half, whatever it was, without featuring our MVP. So her progression — and I know she’s had other great seasons, but I think our opponents could talk to how hard she was to play against. I thought she passed out of double-teams just unbelievably in this series. She knew it was coming. And what prepared her for it was our regular season, the challenges that we faced, and we collected a lot of information in the regular season, and I’ll tell you what, our playoff practices, they weren’t pretty. We kicked their butts. We made it hard. We turned it over like crazy. We trapped us. Everything LA was doing at the end, everything you saw, we tried to make it really, really hard for our team so that they could have these moments and feel at least like they knew what to do.
Sylvia Fowles was just — I don’t know if she mentioned to you, but she had a calm about her today that — she had no jitters going into the game because she was confident in knowing what she had to do to be successful, and I’m just so proud of obviously Syl, James Wade on our staff, Will Hopkins, that spent so much time with her, and obviously Syl is the player. She’s got to make the plays. But it was an unbelievable season, to watch her growth, and how we transformed our team. You know, we went from being centered around Lindsay, Seimone and Maya so now it was Syl every single night, and we had to have people that were willing to take less of a role, and they were happy to do it. Seimone became a passer until her grandma called her in the first round. Her grandma finally called her and said, you probably should score a little bit for this team to win a championship. But at the end of the day, there’s nothing like seeing the transformation of a player like Sylvia Fowles, and she’s the reason why we won a championship.
Q. In addition to Sylvia Fowles in the post, also Rebekkah Brunson had just an incredible last two games and beyond. It seemed like you just dominated the boards in these last two games. What was it really spurred that on, and what’s it like for Brunson, for you to get Brunson this fifth ring, one for her thumb?
CHERYL REEVE: You know, there’s so many reasons to be happy for this group, and obviously now we’ve talked about Whay, we’ve talked about Syl, moan. Rebecca is just — if you’re around our group, she’s the same every single day. She works her tail off every single day. We all have shortcomings in our game. She has worked to kind of narrow the gap on her shortcomings, and shooting the ball all season long, getting the floor spaced for Syl. Then we get to a series where they’re daring her to shoot, and it kind of rocked our world a little bit. Not to say that we were surprised, but Rebecca had to kind of — you take it personally a little bit when somebody is leaving you wide open. I went through that; triangle and two, leave Cheryl Reeve open. I know what it feels like. She handled it way better than I did, by the way.
At some point you go, I’m really valuable to my team, and I’m going to do those things that make me valuable, and rebounding makes her incredibly valuable, being opportunistic on the glass.
I think we learned some things that I think made life easier for both Syl and for Rebecca. Again, going through a series you gain a lot of information, and what we learned about Rebecca was just getting her low. I don’t know if you guys noticed the adjustment we made, but in Game 4 and Game 5, we spent more time with Brunson being on the opposite block as opposed to the top. It was a different type of double-team that Syl was facing, was easier for her to see, and now I’m get giving our opponents for next year all this good information. But I think it made a difference for Rebecca that we put her in her wheelhouse, which was getting on the glass. At the end of the day, she just said, I’m valuable to this team, I’m going to be myself, and I’m just thrilled that she’s now the all-time greatest champion in the history of our league. I told her we’re going to start working on the other hand.
Q. Your 12-point lead and the raucous crowd becomes a three-point lead with 30 seconds left. There’s that time-out and suddenly things are a lot more interesting. How do you keep your team calm? How do you keep thoughts of last year’s game out of their head at that point?
CHERYL REEVE: I don’t think Game 5 was on their minds at all. I think what was on their minds was, you know what, Coach has put us in these situations at practice, and we did the same damn thing at practice; we turned the darn thing over. And we said, we were in that time-out, you can’t retreat against pressure. You have to attack the pressure. You can’t wait for a team to come trap you before you respond, and eventually we said, whoever gets it, when we pass out of it, attack the basket, and that’s what Maya did. Maya made a hard shot. That shot that she made there at the end, that’s not something that comes easy, you know, kind of a runner/floater like 15 feet.
But I heard Lindsay say, that’s Maya Moore. That’s what she does. She makes plays.
But I get why you guys spend a lot of time talking about last year’s Finals. I get it. We didn’t help ourselves at all, either team, by doing exactly the same thing as far as which games each won. But at the end of the day, this felt so different than last season, and I don’t think at any point — maybe our fans felt some kind of way, but this group was — I’ll tell you what, we were incredibly confident in our timeouts, the connectedness that our team showed with one another, I did very little coaching in Game 5. They coached each other through the really difficult times. They were there for each other, they believed in each other, and at the end of the day, they won the game.
Q. This is No. 4, joining Houston kind of at the top of the mountain. Considering especially how far the game has come and the league has come, what kind of feelings come to mind as now you really ascend to a plain that only one other team has reached?
CHERYL REEVE: I just — I mean, I think the overwhelming feeling that I have is just being so happy for this group of five players that give their all, the way they conduct themselves, they’re tremendous professionals. I know that they wanted this. They wanted to take their place next to the Houston Comets. I know that. They wanted that last year. And so they did it. So now they have four.
You know, I mean, it’s just a little bit surreal right now. I’m happy we won at home for our fans. Our fans were unbelievable. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Glen Taylor, Glen and Becky Taylor, who made sure that we stayed in the Twin Cities for these Finals because it wasn’t looking good for a while there, where we were going to play, and for them to step up and for our business staff — to pick up an operation and move it over here, for the University of Minnesota to share their facility with us, that’s teamwork. It’s teamwork. At the end of the day, I know all those people did this for our team, for — we’re deeper than the first five, but our identity is the first five. And so I know that everyone wanted to do all that they could to put this team in position to do what they did because the group is just so special. They’re so special. I just can’t even impart to you how special this group is, and I hope that you all continue to kind of bestow your adulation upon them, because this is incredible times in Minnesota sports history and obviously in WNBA history.
Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Lindsay Whalen
Q. Lindsay, this was another kind of hard-fought battle all the way to the end. Just to get back up here for your fourth time, what are the overall emotions that you’re feeling right now?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, I think — ooh, I think this group more than anything just — we stuck it together. We stuck throughout thick and thin all season, and this game, thick and thin. There were some runs. They cut it obviously to three there with a couple of our turnovers at the end, but we didn’t panic. You know, and like Coach said, at a certain point, players make plays, and Maya made that runner at the free-throw line, which is why she’s Maya Moore, which is also why we like her on our team.
So I think every time you do this, it just gets a little bit more special because it gets a little harder and it gets a little more meaningful because you know it’s not easy, you know it’s not something that we try to take for granted ever, and we’ve now been on this journey together since 2010, but 2011 was our first ring, and every year since then it gets a little tougher.
But we keep coming back, and that’s just a testament to our organization, to our coach, and to everybody on this team is that we keep fighting, we keep coming back.
Q. Lindsay, it seemed like a couple pivotal moments where they were making runs and I can remember one time where you got pretty animated, getting everyone fired up. Can you talk about what that says about your team, when it comes to the emotion, when it comes to the charge you guys are going to match and exceed that?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, I think the one you’re talking about was problem probably in the first half, and we need to get the ball to Syl. I thought we had a couple possessions where it was just a little chaotic and scattered, and within that time Syl had a huge basket, Maya had a big tip, and Mone had a kick-out three, which was big, it just kind of steadied us.
That’s your job as a point guard is to read those things and make those calls and kind of feel the game, and when you’ve got amazing leaders and amazing players beside you, it’s easy to be able to do that, and we all just kind of gave it our all from that point on, and really all game we did, but that was just a moment we needed to kind of settle in and make some plays, and we’ve got the players to do it.
Q. Sylvia, what was your attitude, 20 rebounds, and like they said out there, getting the closing rebound, right? What was the attitude of just imposing your will tonight?
SYLVIA FOWLES: 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, and that was my downfall last year. Like I said, I fell on the court, 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.
Q. Maya, it looked like you survived a little bit of a cold stretch there in the third quarter, and you looked a little bit frustrated. What were your feelings there, and take us through that last shot that you hit after they had made the 9-0 run?
MAYA MOORE: I think there were some moments in the third where frustration was more defensively for me of just wanting to secure some of those rebounds and just make sure that we didn’t give them offense off of our offense. I think we ultimately came back in the third, but I never quit. I never think that I’m out of it. I’m always trying to find the next way I can help my team, whether that’s setting a screen or cutting hard and just always believing the next opportunity is one to take.
Just happy it came at a good time for that shot and all the other ways I could help. That’s just what I was trying to do.
Q. Lindsay, you said every time you do this it gets a little more special. How much more special to do it at the place where you became a nationally-known player?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, I mean, it’s — I knew when Mr. Taylor made the decision and the commitment to us to make sure that we have air-conditioning and everything here, I knew it was going to be special for us. I didn’t exactly know how it was going to turn out. I just kind of felt like — I felt good about it. I felt good about our chances being in this building, because I know what — I know I’ve been a part of some special games here and some special runs.
For him to have that commitment to us and to our fans is really special, and you know, we owed it to them to give it our best shot and to leave it all on the floor and see what happens. It doesn’t get any sweeter than to bring another trophy home and another ring. But to do it here is definitely pretty cool.
I mean, we were at the Xcel for the regular season and then here, and to be able to come away with a championship says a lot about this group and about the toughness that we all have.
Q. Maya, I’m sure Lindsay told you what this place could be like when it was full; what did you think tonight?
MAYA MOORE: Unbelievable. The gray, matching our uniforms, that was sweet. It’s just deafening out there. It’s so loud. Whenever we did something great, even to start the game, you could just feel the energy in it. It helped us. I think it absolutely helped us just embrace the moment and just to be able to finish it here and people to show up the way they did shows that they don’t take us for granted, either.
And so I think our journey of being so successful and not taking things for granted, it’s the same for our fans and Lynx nation. They showed up, poured it out in the game and got rewarded for it. Just happy to have such another special memory. Just when you think it can’t get any better, we create a new memory in the house that Weezy build. I’m just over the top excited and happy of how we did it, and just the way we did it. No questions, it was just clear that we were the best team this year.
Q. Maya, can you try and put into context where this team stands in terms of WNBA history as a franchise?
MAYA MOORE: You know, as a longtime WNBA fan since I was eight years old, I’ve been die hard, watching the Comets, some classic battles, New York, then Detroit had their run, watching the Storm, and then I get a chance to be a part of just an unbelievable group of players over these last few years. It’s just hard to compare, obviously, because when times change and talent gets better and we have more opportunities and things now to take advantage of, but I don’t know if you’re going to get a more deep, committed, selfless group that we have right now. You have talent, but the people that make up this organization is — it would be really hard to find again, top to bottom. You’ve got Rebekkah Brunson, who just won her fifth ring, and she’s happy with the role that she had. It’s unbelievable. She doesn’t necessarily get as much attention from the outside as we give her, but it’s just players like that, you know, who can just say, hey, I need more. But she just constantly gives and pours out.
I think it’ll be hard to find another group that’s, like I said, as talented, as deep, but as selfless as this group.
Q. Lindsay, was it — do you remember your first Williams arena game?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, in college? Yeah, we — well, the legend has it that we was at the pavilion first and then the water main broke, and it flooded the pavilion and we had to come over here. So it was our first game at Williams. That night we had the most we ever had before that game was 2,000 people at the sports pavilion, and the first game over here we had 11,000. Yeah, I don’t know, it just kind of worked out, and that was our first game, and none of us knew how to basically play because we had never seen that many people to watch us play, and I think we beat Indiana that night, but I think the score was like 22-18 at halftime because we didn’t know what we were doing.
But yeah, that was the first game. And then there was a lot after that.
Q. You tried to answer by going outside with your three-point shots, but I think you went 2 for 18 from out there.
BRIAN AGLER: Yeah, we didn’t help ourselves there. I think you’ve got two teams that are sort of — do some things similar, but yet we also do things differently. We rely more on our quickness and our mobility, where they rely a lot on their power and their structure, and so for us to play at the top of our game, we need to hit some perimeter shots.
Q. And how hard is it to play catch-up the entire game like you had to, as well?
BRIAN AGLER: Yeah, it’s not easy. You know, we were right there at halftime, then they sort of extended their lead, we hung around, and you know, with I don’t know what exactly what the timing was, I think with 20-some seconds left, we’re down three. That’s a credit to our team, you know, to fight hard, put ourselves in position. We made some really good plays and finished and couldn’t get over the hump.
Q. The foul trouble, did that kind of haunt you guys again, especially with Nneka having to get in a couple tough ones —
BRIAN AGLER: Yeah, that never helps, but again, that’s part of the game. You’ve got to be able to absorb that and deal with it. You know, I thought in some ways it didn’t kill us, so we had our chances, and that’s what you play for.
Q. Down three in that last time-out when you’ve got all the momentum, are you having flashbacks to last year, and are you trying to inspire that with your team at that point?
BRIAN AGLER: We weren’t talking about last year, we were talking about what we needed to do then. There was 30-some seconds left, I believe, and we could have — our decision making was do we defend them and just try to get a stop and get a time-out and advance it and give ourselves a chance, or do we try to do what we did two or three possessions before and get aggressive and try to come up with something, and they wanted to try to be aggressive, so we did, and we had a couple opportunities, we just weren’t there.
You know, you make a decision like that, you go with it, and you don’t look back.
Q. What did you think of this old arena?
BRIAN AGLER: Well, you know, I’m sort of old-school, so I appreciate the history and I appreciate just the atmosphere. As an opponent, it’s not the easiest to play with, but yet there’s an element of energy that sort of helps both teams, you know. I don’t think it was a huge factor, the noise. We talked about it coming in. I thought our team for the most part stayed together. Like I said, we had our chances.
But enjoyed playing here. It was a good experience.
Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike
Q. Candace, just after such a hard-fought series to kind of battle all the way back like you did and come up short, what’s the emotions right now?
CANDACE PARKER: I mean, we’re sad. Obviously we lost. Glad everybody enjoyed the series. It was exciting. That’s all I’ve got. I think it was a good series.
Q. Nneka, another physical game; what did you think about the way that things were called and to kind of have to leave early like you did?
NNEKA OGWUMIKE: I mean, it happened, so…
Q. Candace, from your viewpoint, what was the ultimate difference in this Game 5?
CANDACE PARKER: Honestly, rebounding. That hurt. Obviously it hurt not having her in the game. That hurt, honestly. But 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. We just have to do a better job in the off-season of trying to figure out how to draw contact. I think that’s something that I have to do in the off-season is drawing contact so I can get the call.
Q. All night you guys were coming from behind; I would ask did it wear on you, but even at the end you made that great run to rally. What does that say about the character of your team?
CANDACE PARKER: We’re not going to give up.
Q. What did you think of this old barn, and did you enjoy playing here?
NNEKA OGWUMIKE: Yeah, I always enjoy playing in front of a crowd. Always. It’s confusing when everyone says hostile environment. I mean, it’s not hostile in LA, but the gym was packed. So I don’t feel like it’s hostile. I’d rather be playing here in front of these people than watching from my living room in Russia.
Q. Candace, I know it’s hard in defeat, but do you take some solace in what this series did in terms of bringing attention to the sport?
CANDACE PARKER: I think it brought attention to a lot of things, you know. Obviously this new format has been good for our league. I think it brought attention to things that we as players have to do better. I think it’s brought attention to — obviously five games, it’s good. I think people can get into the series. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s been good for the fans. It seemed like the WNBA wanted it to go five games, and they got it.
Q. For either player, can you take us through what was said in that time-out when you’re down by three and you seemed to have all the momentum on your side and kind of what the feelings are at that point?
CANDACE PARKER: You were out of the game fouled out. No, obviously we wanted to get a stop. We got Seimone falling backcourt, Sylvia caught the ball. I was playing back I remember, and they got the ball to Maya. I tried to make it difficult, tried to mess up her steps a little bit, and she hit a tough shot.
But I mean, I’m a firm believer it doesn’t come down to that. It doesn’t come down to like the last possession. It came down to other things, and I think rebounding was a big part of it.