The Los Angeles Sparks’ California dreams turned into a nightmare as the defending champs Minnesota Lynx powered through a thrilling, must-win Game 4 against in Los Angeles to bring the series back home.
When recently asked if she was to start a WNBA team using only Minnesota and Los Angeles players, ESPN’s LaChina Robinson didn’t hesitate in sharing who’d be her first pick: It would be the player whose 31-points-in-34-minutes performance Sunday night wouldn’t let her team go home empty-handed. The player who, with her team leading by a basket and only seconds remaining, stole an inbounds pass before calmly sinking her final two free throws of the night.
It was Maya Moore, of course, whose singular efforts helped force a fifth and deciding game in downtown Minneapolis Thursday night.
“I don’t have to think too hard about that,” admitted Robinson, a reporter-analyst. “Maya has really elevated everyone’s game, not only with the Minnesota Lynx but also the WNBA. From her competitive spirit to just the expectation and the excellence that she brings to the floor. She brings it every day.”
The six-foot, six-year veteran also bring it every night, as Moore hit big shot after big shot, carrying her club as the superstar she clearly is. She would not allow the Lynx to go into that good, good night, not having just one more chance — the final chance this season to defend their title.
“I won’t say Maya is overlooked but she’s undervalued,” contended Robinson on Moore’s overall non-demonstrative demeanor, which she opined is impressive and sometimes is overlooked as a form of leadership. She might not be the most vocal person, but as Robinson stated, “I think there is great value in leading by example and in going all out on every possession. She is so consistent on and off the court.”
Sunday’s 85-79 victory was every bit a slug-fest as the Lynx took every shot that the Sparks threw and threw back their own as well.
“If we were going down, we were going out fighting,” said Moore in her post-game comments. “We were able to bounce back and match their runs.”
“We fought today,” added Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike. “We’re going to fight again.”
Before the game, Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen stressed the defending champs’ high stakes elimination game status and predicted both teams would be ready. “Everyone will come out and be focused and be ready and give what they have,” said Whalen. She was right.
If there is an advantage for Minnesota, albeit a slight one, it is the team’s finals experience, which includes being in a deficit position before — the Lynx are 1-1 in elimination games.
Game 4 ended Sunday with both teams with two wins apiece — a fitting position that clearly showed why that this season’s top two teams are still playing for last team standing rights.
Finally, for the second consecutive October, there will be a championship series finale across the street from the club that Prince made world famous: “I’m glad it’s going five games,” said Lynx guard Seimone Augustus. “This is great basketball. They’re going to bring the energy and we’re going to need to bring the pain. This is playoff basketball.”
Read our continuous coverage of the 2016 WNBA Playoffs on MSR News Online.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.