Minnesota came one defensive stop short of history. Nneka Ogwumike’s conversion of her missed jumper with two seconds left gave Los Angeles their first WNBA championship since 2002, a 77-76 win.
And the Lynx once again lost a chance to repeat as champions in an Olympic year — Minnesota lost to Indiana in 2012 after winning in 2011.
“Los Angeles showed up tonight. We made runs and they responded. They made runs and we responded,” said Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles afterwards in a somber locker room after their second last-second loss in the series.
“It’s really tough,” admitted teammate Janel McCarville. “Both teams made plays — back and forth action.”
Minnesota’s inability to get a key stop when needed doomed them throughout Thursday’s contest that featured 24 lead changes and 11 ties. But the hosts never gave up, erasing an eight-point deficit with three minutes left, and going on a 8-0 run to tie the game at 71 with 1:29 left on the clock.
“We didn’t want to be down in the first place,” lamented Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, who stole a Kristi Toliver pass and drove to the basket to score the tying basket in the late-quarter run when it looked like Minnesota would be done for the night. “We battled back.”
But trading baskets, something both teams did all night long, reared its ugly head as both teams once again went back and forth in the final minute or so: an Ogwumike turnaround jumper for the Sparks, then a 17-footer by Seimone Augustus. A chance to take the lead was lost, however, when Maya Moore missed a three-pointer. But Rebekkah Brunson crashed the offensive glass and drew both the ball and a foul.
The Lynx’s rebounding machine only converted one of two free throws, which put Minnesota up a by just a point, 74-73, with 23 seconds left. Candace Parker hit a lay-up four seconds later to put her club up a point. Moore later cashed in on a 16-footer to give the Lynx a short-lived one-point lead.
Then the last six seconds was an eternity: Chelsea Gray misfired on a jumper but Ogwumike got the offensive rebound. Fowles blocked her next attempt, but the forward again got her own rebound and this time she successfully cashed in.
“The key to the game was rebounding. We didn’t get it down,” bemoaned Brunson afterwards.
Los Angeles won Game 1 on a buzzer beater, and won the deciding Game 5 in nearly the same fashion. As a result, Minnesota’s dreams of making history went down as well, finishing its season on a loss at home.
When a reporter asked how tough it was, “They are all tough when it’s the last one,” said Whalen softly. “They’re a great team. They beat us,” she conceded.
Look for more post-finals analysis on MSR News Online.com.
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.