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Lynx sell out Target Center, hit WNBA Finals attendance milestone

“Wow, I’ve never seen it like this,” a Lynx fan was overheard saying walking into the crowded Target Center lobby Thursday night. The WNBA Finals decisive Game 5 attracted 19,423, a true sellout, the first in franchise history.

The large crowd on hand for the Los Angeles Sparks' 77-76 victory over the Lynx was the fifth largest in WNBA Finals history and the best-attended finals game since 2007.

The Sparks played in the most-attended finals game (22,076) at Detroit in 2003. Detroit also attracted 22,076 in the 2007 finals against Phoenix.

“What a great atmosphere,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after her outburst on the poor officiating. “I’ve got to commend our fan base for providing us an atmosphere all season long and creating this home court advantage. … They brought it [Thursday night], our fans did, and they walked away knowing they saw a good game and I know they’re just as proud of our team as I am.”

The Lynx initially offered free T-shirts to the first 10,000 fans to arrive Thursday, but rewarded the community’s great response by handing out 18,000 T-shirts for a “Green out.”

The lower bowl sold out quickly after Game 4 and Wednesday the team announced the upper bowl was also selling fast. The Lynx announced 12,113 attended Game 1 and 12,832 for Game 2 at Target Center. A lower-level sellout is 9,181. Last year’s WNBA Finals Game 5 in Minneapolis attracted 18,993.

Los Angeles coach Brian Agler, who coached in Minnesota from 1999-2002, praised the community’s support for the Lynx and women’s basketball.

“They’ve built up something special here,” Agler said. “They deserve the attendance they got [for Game 5]. They probably deserve it consistently.”

Some of the celebrities on-hand for the finale were Sparks part-owner Magic Johnson and Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Nemanja Bjelica, Ricky Rubio and Cole Aldrich . 

'Sore loser' or 'league president some day': Reeve's rant sparks strong reaction

Cheryl Reeve stayed on script for about 30 seconds Thursday night after Game 5 of the WNBA Finals by congratulating Los Angeles and thanking her players for a great season during the postgame news conference. Then the Lynx coach strayed from the usual pleasantries.

“I want to do like other teams do, which is bemoan the officiating,” she transitioned to calmly. The tone of her voice quickly changed as she proclaimed “Something must be done about the officiating in this league.”

She closed the rant re-emphasizing “I don’t want to take anything away from L.A.  … But that hasn’t stopped other teams from … complaining when it’s happened in our favor, so we might as well get our … complaining in as well.”

The WNBA acknowledged Friday morning that referees made a mistake by not reviewing Nneka Ogwumike's basket with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter that gave Los Angeles a 73-71 lead over the Lynx in Game 5. The Sparks went on to win 77-76 when Ogwumike scored on a rebound with 3.1 seconds to play.

Reeve's outburst was mostly supported by WNBA fans and others around the league. However, former women’s basketball star and Los Angeles standout Lisa Leslie called Reeve a “sore loser” on NBA TV after the game.

Leslie acknowledge the officiating error, but added the Lynx could have done many other things to avoid the loss. Then she said “I think that Cheryl Reeve just looks like a sore loser and that’s unfortunate she used that particular moment to sort of air that dirty laundry about the officials because the officials are working hard, too. They’re trying to do their best.

“Maya didn’t get a word in at all because Cheryl Reeve was really going off on the officials, which makes it all uncomfortable for the players, I think, as well. I would hope if she had a moment to do that over, because she is probably going to get fined pretty big ... calm down a little bit. We understand emotions are high and it was a major loss, but just not the right time.”

Leslie was right, Moore didn’t get a word in during the postgame news conference, but what she probably didn’t know is that the players had already talked to reporters in the locker room and the mediator was quickly moving through questions even though some were directed at the whole group.

Reeve didn’t like what Leslie had to say and tweeted at 4:10 a.m.

Lynx assistant coach Jim Peterson tweeted a photo of the controversial play after the game, but later deleted it. He replaced it with a retweet from a fan that pointed out that Ogwumike also probably should have fouled out.

Alan Horton, the radio voice of the Timberwolves, also highlighted the officiating mistakes and tweeted a photo of Ogwumike still holding the ball when the shot clock expired.

Former WNBA player Chasity Melvin praised Reeve for helping move women’s basketball forward. One basketball writer tweeted Reeve needs to be the league president some day.

Here is more reaction to Reeve's call to action: 

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