Lynx, Sparks look to cement legacies in WNBA Finals rematch

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 27: Alana Beard
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 27: Alana Beard /

The Minnesota Lynx will have another opportunity at WNBA history. Sunday’s 81-70 victory gave the Lynx the series sweep over the Washington Mystics. In doing so, they will reach their sixth WNBA Finals in seven years. They will face the Los Angeles Sparks in a rematch of last year’s championship series.

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Minnesota received little help from their bench but their starters dominated. Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Maya Moore added 21 points and five assists of her own. Seimone Augustus had 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists on 8-for-12 shooting. Lindsay Whalen finished with eight points and five assists in 22 minutes– her most action since returning from a hand injury.

After their defeat in Game 2, Mystics coach Mike Thibault lamented the lack of a third scorer. The Mystics received that in the form of Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who finished with 14 points and five boards on 50 percent shooting. Even with Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver combining for 28, it was not enough to save their season.

The Mystics won the turnover battle but were out-rebounded and greatly outshot. That combination makes it tough to compete with a team like the Lynx.

In Washington, Minnesota had a worthy foe. The Mystics’ season was disappointing and frustrating due to injuries (Delle Donne), down years (Toliver), and long absences (Emma Meeseman). Their record and seeding weren’t an accurate reflection of the talent on this roster and the team figures to contend next season.

ST. PAUL, MN – AUGUST 11: Chelsea Gray
ST. PAUL, MN – AUGUST 11: Chelsea Gray /

A date with history

The Lynx and Sparks will look to cement their places in league history. With three championships and six Finals appearances since 2011, Minnesota is already one of the WNBA’s all-time great franchises. As for Los Angeles, they’ve had just four losing seasons in their 20-year history. A fourth title would tie either team with the now-defunct-Houston Comets for the most in league history.

(Sidenote: it’s still weird that the team with the most titles in league history no longer exists.)

The Comets won the league’s first four championships with the likes of Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper. In doing so, they beat legends like Jennifer Gillom, Lisa Leslie, and Rebecca Lobo. This was the first dynasty for the WNBA.

From 2003-2010, the league saw just four different champions. The then-Detroit Shock, now Dallas Wings, won three and the Mercury and Storm won two apiece. Sacramento was the only odd champion in this stretch. The Shock/Wings were the only team able to establish a dynasty with three titles and Finals appearances in six years. They were the first dynasty since the Comets and the Lynx have been the closest since the Shock/Wings.

Los Angeles’ first title run resulted in back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. Yet, Minnesota has won a championship in every odd year since 2011 with championships in 2011, 2013, and 2015. One of these patterns will repeat this year. Finding out which one will be thrilling. If last year’s Finals was any indication, this should be a good one.

The Sparks will enter with a 10-game winning streak. No team that has won seven straight games or more heading into the WNBA Finals has ever lost. Yet, the Lynx have won nine of their last 11 and have their starting point guard back. As Candace Parker said after Sunday’s victory, this is the way it should be with the two best teams playing for the title.

That’s no disrespect to Phoenix and Washington, the teams the Lynx and Sparks respectively beat in the semifinals. Both the Lynx and Sparks found themselves down double digits at times and erased them in a matter of minutes. It was clear that they were the top tier of the league.

Both of these teams will be playing for that fourth title. The matchup will feature four of the last five MVPs. To top it all off, both teams are playing their best basketball. This is the rematch we’ve been hoping for since last season and it’s shaping up to be everything we’ve wanted.