LOS ANGELES – At 11:39 p.m. Tuesday, the future began for the Lynx.
It will not include 36-year-old Lindsay Whalen, who played her final pro game in a 75-68 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in the first round of the WNBA playoffs at the Staples Center.
It might not include 36-year-old Rebekkah Brunson, who missed her seventh consecutive game after suffering a hairline nasal fracture and a concussion.
It will include Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore. Fowles, named the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the day, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Moore added 14 points — nine of them in the first half, none of them in the final quarter when she missed all four of her shots from the field and a pair of free throws.
Second-year player Temi Fagbenle scored 15 points, missing just one of her eight shots. The Lynx used only seven players until the final 13 seconds -- when Alexis Jones entered the game. Five seconds later, the Sparks' Riquna Williams stole the ball from Jones to secure the victory.
Regardless of who returns, their fourth loss in five games ensures the end of the Lynx’ dynasty. Led by Whalen, Brunson, Moore, Fowles and Seimone Augustus, the club won six Western Conference championships and four WNBA titles in the past seven years.
“It’s clear we’re headed for changes,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We’re a team that’s been together a long, long time, now eight years. That means we had them at 25, 26, 27. Now, they’re getting to a place where they just can’t keep going.
“We’re going to do our very, very best to look at everything open to us. We have a lot of flexibility in our contractual situations. We’ll start right away looking at free agency and, obviously, the collegiate draft. We have a lot of work to do with our roster.”
Reeve expressed particular satisfaction with what she called “the will, the tenacity, the leave-it-all-out-there mind-set” Whalen displayed in her final start before beginning her career as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota.
Whalen finished with nine points, five assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
“It tells you how much we think of Lindsay,” Reeve said about starting the veteran. “I expected nothing less from her. She was ready for it. We needed everything she was doing.”
The Sparks, led by Chelsea Gray's 26 points and Williams' 17, built a 57-43 lead that the Lynx nearly nullified.
The visitors drew within three points four times, the last time at 68-65 with 2:28 to play. Moore had a chance to narrow the deficit to one point after being fouled by Alana Beard, but missed both free throws with 1:56 to play.
The Sparks’ Gray responded with a fadeaway jumper 21 seconds later to extend the lead to 70-65. Nneka Ogwumike added two free throws with 1:02 remaining to build a 72-65 lead but the Lynx still had hope.
Fagbenle made a three-point basket with 52.4 seconds left to narrow the margin to 72-68, then the Lynx regained possession after Williams’ three-point shot hit the rim and went out of bounds with 32.9 seconds left.
But Moore’s off-balance three-point attempt under intense defensive pressure went through the hands of a teammate and dropped out of bounds with 17.4 seconds to play.
Ogwumike added 19 points for the Sparks, whose two starting guards outscored Whalen and Augustus 43-14.
The Lynx shot 46 percent from the field to the Sparks’ 43.5 percent, but Los Angeles was better making threes, going 7-for-19 to Minnesota’s 4-for-15.
The Lynx outrebounded the Sparks 32-27 but had 15 turnovers to Los Angeles’ 10.
The Lynx hadn’t been eliminated in the first round since 2004.