Fowles, Moore push Lynx past Sparks for WNBA title
MINNEAPOLIS -- Still smarting from a bad WNBA Finals game a year ago, Sylvia Fowles found a way to rebound. Literally.
In accepting the Finals MVP trophy after scoring 17 points and pulling down a season-high 20 rebounds, Fowles recalled Game 5 a year ago, when she missed a rebound that allowed the Sparks to make the final shot and win the title.
"If I didn't do anything else, I wanted to make it my business to go out there and rebound," Fowles said. "That was my downfall last year, and that haunted me for a long time after Game 5 last year. I wanted to come in and show my presence, and that was rebounding."
Minnesota joins the now-defunct Houston Comets as the WNBA's only four-time champions. The Lynx also won titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Moore topped the Lynx with 18 points, and Lindsay Whalen added 17 points. Moore had 10 boards, while Whalen contributed eight assists.
"I think every time you do this, it gets a little more special because it gets a little harder," Whalen said. "It gets a little more meaningful because you know it's not easy, and it's not something we take for granted, ever."
Leading by four to start the fourth quarter, the Lynx held off a late charge by the Sparks to claim the deciding game in the best-of-five series.
Los Angeles, which won the title last season in Minnesota, fell short despite a game-high 19 points and team-high 15 rebounds from Candace Parker.
"Rebounding hurt," Parker said. "Our start wasn't as up to par as we wanted it to be, but we cut the lead and got back in the game. A couple calls didn't go our way. We need to do a better job in the offseason of trying to figure out how to draw contact."
The Sparks trailed by 12 with less than two minutes to play, then went on a 9-0 run, cutting Minnesota's lead to 79-76 in the final 30 seconds. However, a Moore jumper and free throws by Fowles and Whalen sealed the victory.
Los Angeles had trouble finding the rim in the opening minutes, missing its first five shots of the game. That opened the door for the Lynx to keep their raucous audience on its feet. Minnesota opened up an 11-point lead at one point in the first, but the Sparks closed the quarter on an 11-2 run, cutting the Minnesota advantage to 21-19 after 10 minutes.
The Lynx led 41-35 at halftime after Moore overcame a string of misses in the second quarter to lead Minnesota with 10 first-half points. The Sparks got a dozen in the first half from Parker, even though she missed a trio of 3-point shots. The Sparks were a collective 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half.
Fowles was the top overall rebounder in the first half with 10, while Parker pulled down seven first-half rebounds for Los Angeles.
"We were right there at halftime, then they sort of extended their lead, and we hung around," said Sparks coach Brian Agler, who was whistled for a technical foul in the second quarter. "I don't know exactly what the timing was, but with 20-some seconds left (in the game), we're down three. That's a credit to our team, to fight hard and put ourselves in position. We made some really good plays and just couldn't get over the hump."
In the third quarter, the Lynx came out hitting shots and boosted their lead to 47-35, but Los Angeles calmed down and started getting the ball to Parker under the basket more often. An 11-2 run by the Sparks, and two baskets in the final minute of the third cut Minnesota's lead to 60-56 heading into the final quarter.
"We knew it was going to come down to our starters and their starters. That's how the series was defined," said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, fighting back tears at the postgame podium. "We also thought getting off to a good start would be important, and we did that."