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Back Against the Wall: Lynx Win, Force Game 5

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The 80-69 victory sets up a winner take all championship game on Wednesday.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Holding an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter the Lynx were two minutes away from forcing a fifth and final game of the series. With the shot clock winding down Lindsay Whalen heaved a deep three-point shot, Rebekkah Brunson tracked down the long rebound, quickly dished to a cutting Maya Moore who scored the layup while drawing the foul. Not only was this the backbreaking, dagger moment that halted the surging Sparks, it also perfectly encapsulates how the Lynx won the game.

Brunson saved her best performance for the penultimate game of the season. With her team facing elimination Brunson scored 18 points, hauled in 13 rebounds and held Sparks forward Candace Parker to 11 points on 3-8 shooting. “BB,” as her teammates call her, has been fantastic all season, stretching her range out to three-point distance while maintaining her typical excellence on the defensive end. But in this series, the Sparks have chosen to help off of her in order to pack the paint to make things tough for Sylvia Fowles. In game 4 Brunson made them pay. She only shot 4 of 12 from the field but she cut into the paint when her defender would leave her, and crashed the boards hard all night. She was rewarded with 13 free throw attempts, 10 of which she made. It was a vintage Brunson game, and the most recent reminder to never take her for granted.

The Lynx won game 4 by crashing the glass. The eye-popping 48-28 (16-7 OREB) rebounding advantage was a complete reversal from Friday’s game 3. Los Angeles settled for and missed a lot of midrange and three-point shots early in the shot clock. Minnesota aggressively vacuumed up the loose balls throughout the evening. Fowles and Brunson combined for 27 rebounds, matching the entire team’s total from game 3. With the exception of that bizarre game 1, the team that has won the rebounding battle has won the game. Wednesday will, likely, be no different.

In back-to-back years the Lynx have won in Los Angeles to force a game 5 in Minnesota. Home court advantage has been reacquired. The Lynx and Sparks have now alternated WNBA Finals wins in nine straight games. Can Minnesota stop the pendulum from swinging back to Los Angeles? Will the Lynx excise the demons of last season’s game 5 loss? Can Lindsay Whalen win a WNBA title in her alma matter’s gym where her number hangs in the rafters? Or Will LA repeat as champs?

This series is unfolding perfectly for the league and its fans. The level of competition is ultra high and Wednesday should be electric. A winner takes all championship game is a fitting finale.

Notes:

Whalen’s flagrant foul on Odyssey Sims in the first two minutes of the game was a strange intense moment so close to tip-off. The flagrant ruling did seem to be appropriate. Luckily for the Lynx, they rattled off a 33-15 run following that foul.

Speaking of Whalen, she and Seimone Augustus had a nice bounce-back game. Whalen had eight assists and was solid on both ends of the floor. Augustus scored 10 points and grabbed eight huge rebounds.

Moore was the other standout player for Minnesota. She filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Those two steals came in the game’s final minutes and helped the Lynx seal the game.

Los Angeles really played into the hands of Minnesota’s defense. The Sparks shot selection was a problem for them all game.

Next Up:

The last game of the WNBA season! A final game on Wednesday night to determine who takes home the championship trophy. The game will air at 7 pm CT on ESPN, but you should do whatever it takes to attend the game in person.