“The LA Sparks have slain the mighty Lynx.” – Ryan Ruocco, ESPN WNBA Broadcaster
A winner take all WNBA Finals Game 5 battle between the 2015 champion Minnesota Lynx and LA Sparks was truly the best. The top two teams in the league competed down to the final seconds with neither team going down without a fight. After all, there was a lot on the line for each franchise. The Lynx were aiming to capture its fourth title in six seasons, while the Sparks were hoping to end a 14-year championship drought for its Southern California organization. But in the end there could only be one winner, and the LA Sparks were victorious over the Lynx — 77-76.
With each team carrying deep rosters — Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus, most notably for the Lynx; and Candace Parker and 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike for the Sparks — the game’s momentum shifted back and forth between both powerhouses throughout the contest. In all, fans remained on the edge of their seats as they witnessed 24 lead changes and 11 ties. Each player’s hunger to finish on top made this Finals matchup one for the ages.
The final 25 seconds included heroics from Rebekkah Brunson (9 points, 9 rebounds). She converted one of two free throws with 23.4 seconds to go, which helped the Lynx gain a 74-73 lead. But Parker responded with a layup to briefly swing things back in the Sparks’ favor. Moore (23 points, 6 rebounds) quickly answered by nailing a 16-ft. jumper, giving the Lynx the lead with 15 seconds on the clock. But pure mayhem ensued on the other end, as Ogwumike (12 points, 12 rebounds) made three MVP-like plays. Never quitting on the play, or her teammates, she grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored the game-winning layup with 3.1 seconds to go. The Lynx’s Lindsey Whalen (10 points, 5 assists) threw up a desperate long three, but missed. Game over. Sparks win, 77-76.
While each Sparks player earned her championship victory, no one was more deserving than nine-year WNBA veteran, Candace Parker. Despite being recognized as one of the league’s top 20 players to ever play the game this season, Parker hadn’t won a WNBA championship title to accompany her two NCAAW championships, two Olympic gold medals, and countless individual honors. Furthermore, the two-time WNBA MVP endured a brutal 2016 year, both personally and professionally. She suffered the loss of her Tennessee coach and mentor, Pat Summit, foolishly went unselected to join Team USA in Rio as a member of the Olympic team, and most recently, wasn’t recognized as an All-WNBA First or Second Team player. Meanwhile, she finished the regular season in the Top 10 of every major category averaging 15.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals. However, despite a season of slights, Parker kept it positive, remaining motivated to honor her late coach’s life and legacy. And that she did. In Game 5, Parker led both teams with 28 points and 12 rebounds, earned WNBA MVP Finals honors, and tearfully dedicated it all to Summitt.
Also, Parker thanked Lakers legend and Sparks co-owner Magic Johnson for believing in the team. When the Sparks were in jeopardy of moving out of Los Angeles, Johnson organized an investment group to keep the team in LA. After the game, he celebrated with the champions.
A photo posted by Los Angeles Sparks (@la_sparks) on
Indeed, congrats to Parker, the entire LA Sparks organization; and also the WNBA for a spectacular 20th WNBA season.