During the previous two seasons, the LA Sparks and Minnesota Lynx had met in the WNBA Finals, and met for a fourth consecutive year in an elimination game.
LA took home the first championship, while the Lynx avenged their defeat the following year. So, for these two squads to be playing in the first elimination game was uncharted territory.
They battled hard for 40 minutes, but eventually, LA Sparks defeated the defending champs, winning by a score of 75-68.
Nneka Ogwumike returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game due to mononucleosis and scored 19 points. Chelsea Gray, meanwhile, could not be stopped. She led all scorers with 26, making four three pointers, and also contributed with six assists, five rebounds, and one block. Riquna Williams, meanwhile, netted 17 points, hitting half of her field goals, including going 3-6 from deep.
“I think it was Nneka that gave us a lot of energy,” Gray told media after the win.
“I think we were down 11 and Nneka was like, ‘No, this stops now.’ I think that’s what we needed, that energy to push us forward.”
Los Angeles’ superstar, Candace Parker, did not have her best offensive performance. She scored only two points, which came early on in the game, and went 1-6 from the field. At one point, Parker checked out of the contest to receive treatment from the medical staff.
“Candace (Parker) isn’t feeling very good,” Brian Agler said.
“She was back in the back when I was talking to the team, so she wasn’t feeling very well tonight, had to take her out a few times. Stomach was upset.”
Gray and Williams Take Over
The dynamic duo of Gray and Ogwumike sparked the comeback late in the first half. With five minutes gone in the second, the Lynx were up by 11 points after Temi Fagbenle drained a layup. Then, Ogwumike scored the next four LA points to cut the lead to seven.
When the half was all said and done, the Sparks were up by three. Ogwumike scored all but three of her points in the first 20 minutes, while Gray put up 14, including sinking two three-pointers.
LA’s momentum to end the first half carried into the next frame. Gray extended the advantage to eight when she pumped in another three point shot. Minnesota had no answers as a Williams’ three pushed the Sparks’ edge to 13 points.
The Lynx didn’t give up, though. They clawed their way back into the contest, closing the gap to single digits. Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore combined for seven points in a row to make the deficit only nine. Lindsay Whalen, who played in her final game on Tuesday in what will be a considered historic career, drilled a jumper to get Minnesota within five.
Minnesota and the Sparks traded a couple of baskets to open up the final frame before Whalen trimmed the lead to three. The Lynx, however, would get no closer in this single elimination game. LA answered everything thrown their way, fought hard on defense, and closed out the contest after Williams made two free throws with 8.1 seconds left.
It will not get any easier from here. On Thursday, the Sparks travel back to the east coast for the second time in a week, where they returned from at 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and will take on the Washington Mystics at 3:30 PM.