LOS ANGELES – Shortly after the Lynx had forced a Game 5 in this back-and-forth WNBA Finals series with a gritty 80-69 victory over Los Angeles, in a strikingly reserved Minnesota locker room, Seimone Augustus called for a rewrite.
See, this series has borne a striking resemblance to last year’s Finals, between the same teams. Step by step, a mirror image. L.A. in Game 1, Lynx in Game 2, L.A. in Game 3, Lynx in Game 4.
Lynx fans will remember the pain of the last-moment loss to the Sparks on the Target Center floor last year. So if the narrative of this series has mimicked that — it’s time to stop.
“We will have a rewrite for the final game,” Augustus said. “I gotta put that out there, put that energy out there. But this is great. This is great for women’s basketball. Everybody’s going to be tuning in to see what happens.”
In a series that has favored the team delivering the first punch, the Lynx, stymied offensively two days before, came out swinging Sunday. They outrebounded the Sparks 48-28 and took 30 free throws to Los Angeles’ 16.
“We have to box out, and we have to rebound,” Sparks star Candace Parker said. “It’s no secret they killed us on the glass. We’re not going to win many games giving up 16 offensive rebounds.”
Since the start of the Finals a season ago, these two teams have played nine games. Neither team has won two in a row.
The Lynx need that to change.
“Both teams are going to want to be more efficient on offense,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And to stop the other team from being efficient. It’s going to come down to hustle plays. It will be the extra screen, the extra pass, and what player rises up and makes plays.”
The teams have traded games filled with those plays. The Sparks stole homecourt advantage in a Game 1 that began with the Lynx looking flat. In Game 2, Minnesota set the tone. It’s been a give-and-take series befitting the two teams that finished the regular season miles clear of the rest of the league.
It would appear this series has reached a point beyond the X’s and O’s stage.
“We’re going to play hard,” said forward Rebekkah Brunson, whose energy led the way for Minnesota on Sunday. “Both teams are good. Really, really good. Well-matched. Nobody is going to give up. But we’re just happy to take it back to Minny.”
It should be compelling. Both teams have shown the ability to rebound from a tough loss. The Lynx know the Sparks will respond to Sunday’s game, when they were outdone in effort in just about every way.
Will the Lynx reciprocate?
Williams Arena should be full. It holds about 14,500 fans, and the Lynx drew 19,000 or so for Game 5 at Target Center last year.
“Our fans have built a home environment that’s tough for anyone,” Augustus said. “And the Barn is different. They sit right on top of you. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be loud. Our fans will have fun.”
It will be a chance for both franchises to win a fourth WNBA title. For Brunson, it’s a chance to become the only player in history with five rings. For Lindsay Whalen, it’s a chance to play a winner-takes-all game in her old college arena. It’s like a movie script.
“I don’t know about a movie,” Whalen said. “But it will be on ESPN on Wednesday night. So it will be on TV. And we’ll be ready to go.”