Los Angeles coach Carol Ross was named the WNBA's Coach of the Year on Sunday before her Sparks played the Lynx in the afternoon at Staples Center.
She undoubtedly appreciated the award, but her day did not end too well.
The Lynx edged the Sparks 80-79 to sweep the best-of-three Western Conference Finals series in two games.
"Every mistake we made, they made us pay," Ross said, according to a news release from the Sparks. "You can’t get away with them on Minnesota. [Maya] Moore had two big threes and we were slow in our rotations.
"We had a miscue with [Lynx guard Monica] Wright in the corner. She nailed it - that was a big basket. I think when Cheryl [Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve] put [Rebekkah] Brunson back in with four fouls, it really showed their confidence and energy. To their credit, they made us pay when we made mistakes, and that’s what champions do. We have to live with the consequences.”
Wright's open three-pointer from the right wing put the Lynx ahead at 80-79 with 1 minute, 14 seconds left and neither team scored after that.
“We didn’t expect that [Wright] was going to make the big shot," Reeve said. "We were looking for Maya. But Wright was wide open, and the calmness that she stood in there and took the shot with great confidence, and she was a huge help in this game. She’s always ready when her number is called.”
Sparks guard Alana Beard missed a baseline jumper from the right side with four seconds left.
"Candace [Parker] was going to be the screener," Ross said of the last play. "We were going to look for the drive and have Candace looking for the put-back. Beard had the option to get it to Parker on the pick and roll, and it wasn’t executed very well.”
THE MOORE EFFECT
Ross said momentum changed at the end of the third quarter.
"We should have held the ball and took the last shot. [Instead Maya] Moore hit a three, and I thought the energy changed then," Ross said.
Moore blocked a layup attempt by Parker with 15.4 seconds left, and then made a three-pointer with 3.6 seconds left to cut L.A.'s lead to 65-57, eight points.
Moore made two more threes in the third minutes of the fourth quarter and the Sparks' lead was down to 70-67.
"We all want to make it one play or one moment," Ross said, "but it’s an accumulation of 40 minutes of moments. We fought to get the lead, they fought to get it back. It was a game of runs. We wish we could have held it and built on it, and we didn’t. I’m not disappointed with our fight, and that’s the most important thing for me: we competed hard, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
500th GAME FOR MAMA TAJ
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who turns 42 on Oct. 20, played in her 500th career WNBA game. She has played in 440 regular-season games and a record 60 playoff games.
Tangela Smith (515) of San Antonio and Tina Thompson (507) of Seattle, both still active, are the only players who have played in more games than she has.
McWilliams-Franklin had eight points, a team-high five assists and two blocks 30 minutes.
Parker, L.A.'s 6-4 center, almost single-handedly willed the Sparks to win. She had 33 points and 15 rebounds and five blocks, four solo.
“Candace was tremendous," Ross aid, "not just tonight but all season long over the course of a very long season. She was excellent so many times. Her expectations for herself are much higher than any coach could have for her.
"I expect her to be almost perfect because she’s so talented, she has a warrior’s mindset. I’m disappointed for her that I couldn’t help her and the rest of the team get what they wanted. I will tell her I’m sorry I couldn’t do more, help her more, because she certainly helped us.”
Said Parker, “They beat us by one point. At this point you look back at different things you could have done in the game, but I think our rebounding was better from last game. But at the end of the day it came down to a rebound, which we didn’t get. Closing out on a long shooter. Obviously, disappointing to say the least about the outcome because I really felt like we were going to win this game.
“I really wanted this, this championship from the day we all got together. We had championship in our mind and in our hearts. It hurt after we lost tonight because I think that this is a championship team. But the ball didn’t fall our way, and it was tough towards the end, and the ball didn’t roll in.”
Said Reeve, “When you have good people, good things will happen. We do things the right way, the unselfish play. If you look at all of them, they all have the same reputation. I’m fortunate to be in Minnesota in this window of opportunity we have, it’s a good group. If I can stay out of the way and let them hoop and be themselves, then we have a chance to be successful."
* This was a game where big leads didn't matter much. The Lynx led by 12 early in the second period but held a 40-39 lead at halftime. ... L.A. used a 17-0 run to go up 62-50 late in the third quarter and Sparks' lead grew to 13 at 65-52 with 46.4 left in that quarter.
“I thought we were overanalyzing and we couldn’t score the ball and then they got into transition," Reeve said, referring to L.A.'s big run. "Our offense really triggered the run they made.
“I have players who play year around, and who have been up 17, up 13, down 17, and you know you have to keep playing. You don’t have a choice. I thought it was really important that they believe if we stay the course, we’ll be back in it. With five minutes to go, we put the pressure on them and made plays.”
Said Lindsay Whalen, "When we were down 13, we just knew we had to stay with it, and to stick together, and to make sure that we weren’t going to give up and just hold in on the game plan, knowing eventually we were going to make shots. We picked it up, got a little more pressure on the ball. We started to really get things going, get some steals, rebounded better, and we ended up getting the win.”
* The Lynx are 4-0 all-time in postseason games decided by three points or fewer.
WNBA FINALS SKED
With Sunday's win, the Lynx advance to the WNBA Finals for the second year. The schedule:
Game 1, Sunday, October 14: Connecticut/Indiana at Lynx, 7 p.m.
Game 2, Wednesday, October 17: Connecticut/Indiana at Lynx, 7 p.m.
Game 3, Friday, October 19: Lynx at Connecticut/Indiana, 7 p.m.
Game 4, Sunday, October 21: Lynx at Connecticut/Indiana, 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 5, Wednesday, October 24, Connecticut/Indiana at Lynx, 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Tickets are available by calling the Lynx Front Office at 612-673-8400, visiting www.lynxbasketball.com or at the Target Center Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets.
Reeve: "[A game] is not decided in the first or second 10 minutes. We had great leadership, and Moore hit some great threes to get us back into it and give us more bounce to our step. Happy to get the W, survive and advance, and WNBA finals here we come.”