The clock was ticking down at Target Center on Wednesday night, the game decided. Now it was only a matter of time, less than a minute, and the crowd of 18,993 — the biggest in Lynx history — had been partying for the entire fourth quarter.
Dressed in white, towels waving, the fans were deafening.
So Seimone Augustus had to get really close to Maya Moore. In her face. But, the seconds ticking down, on one side of the court Augustus leaned in and said:
“I love you,” Augustus said. “That’s what I said, honestly. And she said, ‘I love you back.’ That’s all that needed to be said.”
For a third time in five years, the Lynx are WNBA champions. This time, for the first time, at home, thanks to a 69-52 victory over Indiana in the first finals Game 5 since 2009. Add this to Lynx titles in 2011 and 2013. And while every year is different, many things have stayed the same. So, for the four starters who have been on all three title teams — Augustus, Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson — it was a monumental night.
So there was Moore, with the clock stopped with less than a minute left, doing a slow 360 looking at the crowd, smiling. Or Augustus — who had her best game of the finals — waving her hands, asking that crowd for more.
Coach Cheryl Reeve, on the sidelines, being crushed with emotion.
“When it looked like it was obvious, that we were going to win, it’s a big rush that comes over you,” Reeve said. “The whole season flashes in front of you. You realize how hard it was. This wasn’t easy, but they kept believing. And that’s why your heart is so full, for them. They persevered.”
A parade is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Friday in downtown Minneapolis with a celebration following at 12:15 p.m. at Target Center.
On a night when their offense wasn’t always clicking, the Lynx suffocated the Fever, choked the offense out of a team that been efficient to that point in the series. Indiana shot 35.7 percent. Its four second-quarter points were the lowest in a quarter in league finals history. After falling behind by two after the first quarter, the Lynx outscored Indiana 32-12 over the second and third quarters, taking a 19-point lead into the fourth, triggering a celebration.
“They outplayed us in every single way,” Indiana coach Stephanie White said. “They’ve been one of the premier teams in our league for a long time, and tonight you saw a reason why.”
Augustus, who missed two months of the season because of a pair of injuries, had her best game of the series, with 16 points, when the Lynx basically decided the game.
And then there was Sylvia Fowles. A midseason addition, Fowles bounced back from a foul-inhibited Game 4 to score 20 points with 11 rebounds and a block. Fowles, who scored 20 or more in three of the five games, was voted Finals MVP. She waited half a season to get her requested traded from Chicago, and at one point had decided it would never happen. Finally, it did. And now this.
“It feels good doing it with everybody,” Fowles said. “I’m just excited to do it with these girls.”
Moore scored only five points, but had five assists, two blocks, four rebounds. Whalen, dinged up early in the game, made key plays down the stretch.
The Lynx decided to make sure Marissa Coleman (three points) and Shenise Johnson (10) wouldn’t beat them, and put the pressure on Briann January, who had been so good in the series. January scored 13, but made only six of 15 shots. Forward Tamika Catchings scored 18, but needed 16 shots to get them.
When it was over, it was all champagne, cigars and celebration and a trip to Paisley Park later that night for a private concert by Prince.
Of the three titles, this was the sweetest, because it was so hard. The Lynx dealt with injuries, with the midseason additions of Fowles, Anna Cruz and Renee Montgomery. The team went 6-6 in August, limping to the finish of the regular season.
“It was a very hard season for us,” Augustus said. “Mentally, physically, emotionally. But we pushed through it. So we will cherish this basketball memory. The loyalty we have on this team is like none other. I’ve never been on a team so connected.”
Montgomery learned that. It took her a while to fit in once she got here. But when she did? She and Cruz were instrumental in this series.
“When I first got here, I was scared to mess up their thing,” Montgomery said. “But then ‘Mone had a talk with me and she said, ‘You can add to our thing, just do what you do.’ That was the turning point. And I’ve decided that, whatever this thing is, I’m loving it.”