Throughout the WNBA’s 20th season, the times when the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx squared off against each other had been nothing less than intense.
Back in June, both teams marred each other’s undefeated record after playing two consecutive games together.
When they faced each other after the Olympics break, Minnesota and Los Angeles only succumbed to five losses. The Sparks fell to the Lynx for the second time and became second in the league with a 26-8 overall record.
The Sparks came into the Finals as the underdog. This is the first Finals appearance for the Sparks in over 10 years. Minnesota returned to earn a second consecutive League title. Ever since the franchise drafted Moore in 2011, the team has only missed the WNBA Finals once.
With a 2-1 record, Los Angeles was on the cusp of a championship title in the game 4 match at the Staples Center. Forward Maya Moore scored 31 points, carrying the Lynx to an 85-79 victory.
Although, they came out with a 6-2 run, the Sparks trailed the Lynx by two points at the end of the first quarter. Guard Chelsea Gray scored 9 points in the second quarter alone, but Moore led the offense and kept Los Angeles behind them.
Throughout the second half, the Sparks kept the game close; Minnesota’s dominance continued to control the game. Moore shot two three-pointers late in the third quarter, adding on 10 points during that period.
Minnesota fought off an aggressive Los Angeles squad in the fourth quarter. With 6:01 left in regulation, a shot by center Candace Parker tied the game at 69 points. Then Minnesota went on a six-point run and forced two turnovers. Once the Sparks would get within two points of the Lynx, Minnesota would respond in the next possession, ultimately forcing a game 5.
Game 3 belonged to the Sparks when they defeated the Lynx 92-75 in the Galen Center. Forward Essence Carson scored all four of her three-pointers, WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Parker got nine rebounds each, and guard Alana Beard earned seven assists.
Los Angeles took control of the game early, the Lynx fell into a 20-point deficit during the second quarter. Minnesota was unable to gain control of the contest.
However, Minnesota dominated game 2, leading by as much as 19 points. Four Lynx players reached the double digits in scoring. Minnesota benefited from 17 second-chance points and 40 points in the paint.
“I just tried to attack more in the fourth quarter, or throughout the game I tried to attack, and it just so happened to fall my way,” Moore said. “The fans were kind of sitting on their hands a little bit, and I think that helped them get into the game.”
Los Angeles set the tone of the Finals with a 78-76 victory in game 1 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The game was tied at 76 with 24.7 left in regulation. Then Beard sent up a buzzer-beating shot to win the game. Ogwumike and guard Kristi Toliver scored 19 points each.
“Everybody is going to talk about [Beard’s] shot, but the key defensive two possessions before that, that she blocked Lindsay Whalen and she got a steal with Maya Moore,” Parker said after game 1. “Those are the possessions that were crucial for us.”