Lynx, Sparks head into de­cid­ing game for ti­tle

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Beth Har­ris

The Min­nesota Lynx will be vy­ing for a record-ty­ing fourth cham­pi­onship when they host the Los An­ge­les Sparks in the fifth and de­cid­ing game of the WNBA fi­nals on Thurs­day night.

With both teams win­ning on each other’s home courts, the WNBA Fi­nals are headed to a de­ci­sive fifth game for the sec­ond straight year.

And just like a year ago, the Min­nesota Lynx will be at home with a chance to win a record-ty­ing fourth ti­tle.

They earned their third by beat­ing the In­di­ana Fever last year. Now, they’ll try to fin­ish off the Los An­ge­les Sparks in the de­cid­ing game Thurs­day.

“We have cre­ated a tough place to play at Tar­get Cen­ter. I’m ex­pect­ing 15,000plus fans for Game 5,” Lynx guard Sei­mone Au­gus­tus said. “They’re go­ing to bring the en­ergy and we’re go­ing to bring the pain.”

The Sparks hurt them­selves with turnovers in the wan­ing min­utes of an 8579 loss in Game 4 on Sun­day night.

With Kobe Bryant and Sparks co-owner Magic John­son watch­ing courtside, Maya Moore scored 31 points and the Lynx dom­i­nated in re­bound­ing and fast-break points to even the series.

“This is what a Fi­nals game should look like, both teams leav­ing it all out on the floor,” Lynx coach Ch­eryl Reeve said.

Lind­say Whalen added 13 points, Au­gus­tus had 12 and Sylvia Fowles had 10 points and 13 re­bounds for Min­nesota.

Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 20 points off the bench. She was 6 of 11 and made all four of her free throws.

Min­nesota’s de­fense clamped down on the Sparks’ pow­er­ful duo of Nneka Og­wu­mike and Can­dace Parker, whose stel­lar re­sumes are miss­ing only a WNBA cham­pi­onship. They were held to sin­gle-digit scor­ing in the first half.

Og­wu­mike, the league MVP, fin­ished with 11 points on 5 of 10 shoot­ing, while two-time MVP Parker had 14 points and made 6 of 7 free throws for the Sparks, who are seek­ing their first ti­tle since 2002.

Los An­ge­les opened the series with a two-point vic­tory at Min­nesota. The Lynx re­sponded with a 19-point vic­tory in Game 2 be­fore the Sparks re­turned home and rode a big firstquar­ter to a 17-point win in Game 3.

Kristi To­liver, who fin­ished with 15 points, ex­pects the de­cid­ing game to be as un­pre­dictable as the oth­ers.

“It’s go­ing to be a dog­fight. It’s go­ing to be up and down. It’s go­ing to be phys­i­cal,” she said. “Hope­fully we’ll learn from this ex­pe­ri­ence of know­ing how to close out a series.”

The teams have three days un­til Game 5, the long­est rest of the Fi­nals. The Lynx head home on Mon­day, while the Sparks depart on Tues­day.

“We didn’t lack de­sire to win or a will. We com­peted hard enough,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We’ve just got to put that back to­gether and play with more poise.”

The Sparks outscored the Lynx 10-4 to open the fourth quar­ter, ty­ing it at 69-all on Parker’s driv­ing bank shot as she fell out of bounds. Los An­ge­les went 6 of 9 from the free throw line in that span.

Whalen scored two straight bas­kets to put the Lynx back in front 73-69 on turnovers by Og­wu­mike and To­liver.

Gray’s fourth 3-pointer drew the Sparks to 77-75.

They were down 79-77 when Parker was called for a shoot­ing foul on Re­bekkah Brun­son, who made both free throws for an 81-77 lead. Og­wu­mike scored once more to pull the Sparks within two be­fore Moore sealed the vic­tory with a pair of free throws.

“I don’t know if we’re go­ing to see the re­sults on Thurs­day, but this game is re­ally go­ing to help us be­cause it’s the first time this team has been in this kind of en­vi­ron­ment,” Agler said. “Of course we’re play­ing against a great op­po­nent that’s been there sev­eral times, and you could tell the dif­fer­ence in both teams. Go­ing through this, I could just sort of tell from our fa­cial ex­pres­sions in the locker room, this was new for them.”

MARK J. TER­RILL — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Los An­ge­les Sparks for­ward Can­dace Parker, cen­ter, shoots as Min­nesota Lynx for­ward Re­bekkah Brun­son de­fends dur­ing the sec­ond half in Game 4 of the WNBA bas­ket­ball fi­nals, Sun­day in Los An­ge­les. The Lynx won 85-79.

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