The stage is set. On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx will battle it out in a rematch of last year’s WNBA finals Game 5 finale. This series has showcased plenty of star power, an intense rivalry, gritty play, and buzzer-beating shots.
For only the second time in WNBA history, the same two teams are competing in back-to-back finals. Each team traveled a similar path to get here. They both earned their place in the finals with dominant play throughout the year, achieving nearly identical regular-season records. And they both swept their way through the semifinals.
With four of the last five MVP winners facing off in this contest—Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles of the Lynx and Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks—fans have been treated to an elite level of play. Said sparks guard Alana Beard, “You understand that you have four players in this game who know how to make plays and know how to win. It’s always exciting to see those kind of players at that kind of skill level go against each other.”
Looking ahead, the Lynx will try to come out with a lot of energy. Their aggressive play in Game 4 allowed them to dominate the glass and out-rebound the Sparks 48–28. L.A. coach Brian Agler gave credit to Minnesota, saying, “They were a lot more aggressive, got themselves to the free-throw line, gave themselves opportunities, gave themselves second-chance points off offensive boards.”
A major key for the Lynx will be offensive production and leadership from their starters. After Game 4, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve expressed the significance of their impact, saying, “My five starters have unbelievable confidence in themselves, and they have this fire in their belly that is second to none. It’s been a group that has so much confidence in each other, belief in what we’re doing, belief in our identity.”
After struggling from behind the arc in Game 4, the Sparks will hope to have a better shooting night in the series finale. Shot selection may also be an important factor. Agler noted, “I thought our shot selection in the first half was not very good. I thought we panicked offensively when we were sort of falling behind.”
The Sparks will also need to have a stronger rebounding night to take advantage of their transition game and have better offensive flow.
WNBA fans are intrigued by how this year’s finals is so similar to last year’s. It’s been a back-and-forth battle that will wrap up in Minnesota Wednesday with Game 5.
But the players aren’t interested in the past. They’re focused on taking charge of their destiny this year. Said Beard, “It’s a new season. Last year was last year. We won a championship there, but this is a new season, and it will come down to who wants it more.”
The Lynx feel the same way. Added Moore, “We’re going to compete. We’re not going to quit. To be able to bring that level of competitiveness for 40 minutes is what’s required to win a championship. We expect no less from L.A. on Wednesday.”
Game 5 tips off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Photographs by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images (2)