The Minnesota Lynx got the prize they’ve been craving since the end of the WNBA Finals in 2016. It was heartbreak last year, but joyous celebrations this season. They are champions after beating the Los Angeles Sparks 85-76 in the 2017 WNBA Finals. It was a Finals series to remember as the Lynx gave it their all and got their hands on their fourth championship in six years.
Sylvia Fowles finally buried the ghost of the last rebound of the 2016 Finals as she scored 17 points and grabbed a WNBA Finals-record 20 rebounds in the Minnesota Lynx defeat of the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the 2017 WNBA Finals.
Fowles, who recorded double-doubles in every game of the Finals, also became the first person to be named both regular-season and Finals MVP since Lauren Jackson annexed both honors while playing for Seattle Storm in 2010. It is the second Finals MVP award for Fowles, following her 2015 Finals MVP win.
“My coaches leaned on me, my teammates leaned on me. From the start of the season, we just wanted to grind. We told ourselves that [if] we give ourselves the opportunity to get back here to a Game 5, that we will win it on our floor again and that’s exactly what happened. So you have to give your teammates credit for pushing you, and getting you back to Game 5,” Fowles said immediately after the game.
As it was in Game 2, when the Lynx rallied to tie the Finals on their floor, all the Lynx starters scored in double figures. The only difference is that this time, with a championship on the line, they combined for more points. Maya Moore, who made the last jump shot of the Finals, led her team with 18 points, Fowles and Lindsay Whalen scored 17 each, Seimone Augustus scored 14 and Rebekkah Brunson contributed 13 points.
Brunson also became the first player in WNBA history to win five championships. She won her first title with the Sacramento Monarchs, and won the remaining four with Minnesota, who have now matched the Houston Comets as the only team with four WNBA championships. Minnesota also kept their streak of landing a title every odd year alive, as they have now won a title in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
“It feels so good, but I’ve been blessed to be on great teams,” Brunson said after the win. “This team depends on me to give them some energy from the beginning of the games, and you can see that whenever I didn’t do that during the series, things didn’t end up well for us. So I just knew that tonight I want to come out and give energy, passion and everything that I had.”
Candace Parker, who led all scorers in last year’s Finals, also led with 19 points this season, as she finally delivered the performance the Sparks had been waiting for. She also added a team-high 15 rebounds, plus five assists and four blocked shots; she was the only Los Angeles Sparks player to record a blocked shot. But it was too little, too late.
Nneka Ogwumike, who wasn’t at her most dominant, managed 11 points, only three rebounds, and fouled out of the game with 5:29 remaining. Chelsea Gray scored 15 points, Odyssey Sims added 14 and the pair of Jantel Lavender and Riquna Williams contributed eight and seven points from the bench.
The determination of the Lynx can be measured from their defensive attempts, as they outrebounded the Sparks 46-29, the biggest margin between both teams in this Finals. The Sparks were also more economical with their shot selections, as their two made 3-point shots from 10 attempts look better than Sparks’ two of 18 from the same range.
By Akinbode Oguntuyi
@booday10 on Twitter
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