Lynx win pushes Finals series to Game 5, Sparks eschew comparisons to last season
LOS ANGELES – With their backs against the wall in the best-of-five WNBA Finals series, the Minnesota Lynx came out swinging to earn an 80-69 win over the Los Angeles Sparks to tie up the series 2-2. The Lynx accomplished the feat in front of a hostile, sold-out crowd that included several celebrities and the mayor of Los Angeles at Staples Center Sunday night.
Like last season, the Lynx and the Sparks are taking the Finals series to a game five with the last contest taking place in Minneapolis. Comparing the two seasons is inevitable, a fact not lost on coaches and players.
“I know you guys are going to be writing about how eerily similar things have gone in this five-game series as last year, and I guess rightfully so,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “I’m just proud of our team. Not many teams have come in — actually one team this season has come in here and won a game, so we knew it was a tall task. Obviously, we were up for it, and we were prepared to do whatever was necessary.”
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike had a drastically different reply to a question about the similarities between the two seasons.
“I mean, I guess I could answer that. No disrespect at all to that question, but I’m really tired of that question,” said Oguwmike. “I mean, this year is this year. No disrespect at all, that’s just like the hundredth time I’ve heard it. This year is a different year, and I know it’s the same, and I know that’s what everyone here wants to talk about, but it’s a different year.”
Her teammate Alana Beard voiced similar thoughts.
“Last year was last year,” said Beard. “We won a championship there but this is a new season and it will come down to who wants it more.”
The margin of victory in game four was the same as game five, 11 points. The biggest differences in how the teams performed Sunday night were rebounding and second-chance points. Minnesota outrebounded the Sparks 48 to 28. The Lynx’s rebounding included 16 offensive boards. The 28 rebounds is a postseason low for the Sparks. In addition, Minnesota had 21 second-chance points compared to just five for Los Angeles.
Sparks head coach Brian Agler mentioned these factors in his postgame presser.
“To compete with Minnesota you have to stay in the game with them with the rebounding, and obviously that was a wide margin tonight,” said Agler. “But they were the most aggressive team. There wasn’t any question.”
Candace Parker also addressed the rebounding of her team against the Lynx.
“We have to box out and we have to rebound,” said Parker. “It’s no secret they killed us on the glass and we’re not going to win many games giving up 16 offensive rebounds.”
The Lynx started the game strong, scoring the first four points and finished the first quarter with a 21-16 lead. Minnesota outscored the Sparks for the next two quarters. The teams entered the last period with the Lynx leading 61-44. Even though the Sparks outscored Minnesota 25-19 in the last two minutes, it was not enough to overcome a double-digit deficit.
According to Agler, Minnesota was “a lot more aggressive, got themselves to the free-throw line, gave themselves opportunities, gave themselves second-chance points off offensive boards. We just didn’t play the way we need to play to have success against them, and they did the things they needed to do to have success against us.”
Sylvia Fowles led the Lynx with 22 points plus 14 rebounds. She became the first player in WNBA Finals history to have double-doubles in four straight games. Rebekkah Brunson also earned a double-double with 18 points plus 13 rebounds. Maya Moore added 15 points plus eight rebounds. Seimone Augustus scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Odyssey Sims paced the Sparks with 18 points and four steals. Ogwumike finished with 17 points plus eight rebounds. Parker contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.
The series resumes Wednesday, Oct. 4 in Minneapolis at Williams Arena at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Moore and her teammates are excited to play game five in Lynx territory.
“It’s going to be great to be able to take advantage of what we worked for all regular season – to have home court advantage,” Moore. “They stole one from us. We stole one from them. Now, it’s one game left. We’re excited for the opportunity to compete for our goal in front of our fans.”
- With her first field goal of the game, the Lynx’s Maya Moore passed Diana Taurasi (359) for first all-time on the WNBA Playoff field goal list.
- After playing 28:20 minutes, the Lynx’s Lindsay Whalen passed Tamika Catchings for the most minutes played in WNBA Playoff history. Whalen finished with four points while dishing out 8 assists, her most since tallying 11 on Aug. 21, 2014 vs. San Antonio.
- Los Angeles finished the game shooting 26-64 (40.6%) from the field compared to Minnesota’s 28-66 (42.4%).