Minnesota Lynx outlast Los Angeles Sparks to win fourth WNBA championship

 In Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — All the building blocks line up like blue-and-green dominoes when you look back at what has led to this tremendous run of success for the Minnesota Lynx, who celebrated their fourth championship after a 85-76 victory over Los Angeles in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday at Williams Arena.

Last year, the Lynx and their fans were crushed to lose Game 5 of the Finals on a last-second shot by the Sparks.

This year, when they fell behind 2-1 in the series — and the Sparks had another chance to clinch the title in Los Angeles — things seemed bleak for the Lynx, at least to outsiders. However, they were confident they could win Game 4 and send the series back to Minnesota, just as they did in 2016.

And this time, Game 5 didn’t get away from them, and the Lynx tied the Houston Comets’ record of four WNBA titles.

All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures. Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and 20 rebounds, Maya Moore added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Lindsay Whalen 17 points and eight assists.

Fowles became the first player since Seattle’s Lauren Jackson in 2010 to win both the regular-season MVP and WNBA Finals MVP.

In a twist of fate, the victory came on the college home court of Whalen, Minnesota’s point guard. The Lynx hosted their playoff games at Williams because their usual home, Target Center, is being renovated. They’ll be back at Target next season, but this year they got to celebrate in the nearly 90-year-old arena called “The Barn.”

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Whalen led the University of Minnesota to the Women’s Final Four her senior year in 2004, and then was the No. 4 pick in the WNBA draft, by Connecticut. She played in the WNBA Finals twice with the Sun (2004, ’05) and then was traded back home in 2010.

Whalen is from Hutchinson, Minnesota, about an hour west of Minneapolis. The Lynx have become a model franchise, and it has happened in her backyard.

“That’s something to really be proud of — that our team has had this big of an impact on our community, our league, and the sport,” Whalen said. “To have it be here in Minnesota where I grew up and played in college — it’s really cool.

“When you’re young, it’s not like you could predict any of this stuff. But knowing the way people are here, you feel that this can happen. Anytime you get some wins and have a team that plays the right way, and does the right things on and off the court, Minnesotans are really ready to support you and show up. Not just as fans, but as a real part of it.”

A lot of hard work has elevated this franchise, but a little good fortune helped along the way.

“When you go through a period of time when you’re successful, some of it is luck, and some is timing,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “As they say, you have to go through some failure before you go through success.”

The Lynx won just one playoff game in their first 12 seasons. In the seven seasons since, they’ve won 41 playoff games. From 2011-17, they are 182-56 in the regular season. Minnesota is the standard-bearer, a franchise that players want to join.

Such was the case with Fowles, who sat out the first half of the 2015 season with Chicago to force a trade to Minnesota.

“They do things differently here, and that starts from the top down,” Fowles said. “Everybody holds each other accountable, and that’s something that I like. Everybody has a role and knows that.”

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