A key three-pointer from Monica Wright and a second-half rally from 13 down gave the defending champs all they needed.
LOS ANGELES - On a team with four starters scoring in double figures, an unlikely protagonist put the Lynx into the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive year.
Monica Wright's three-pointer with 1 minute, 14 seconds to play sent the Lynx to an 80-79 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday in front of an announced 10,791 at Staples Center.
After sweeping the best-of-three Western Conference finals with the Sparks, the Lynx will face either the Connecticut Sun or the Indiana Fever for the WNBA championship.
Enhancing the victory's significance is the fact that the Lynx had to rally from a 13-point deficit in the second half after building a 12-point advantage early in the second quarter.
"You look at my team, and you look at L.A. There's not much separation," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "But this team epitomizes the resiliency, the intelligence and the patience that this group has."
The Lynx needed those traits to overcome a two-stage rally that the Sparks began after trailing 29-17 with 46 seconds gone in the second quarter.
Candace Parker dominated the rest of that period. Parker amassed 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists to narrow the Sparks' deficit to 40-39 at halftime.
Then the hosts used a 17-0 blitz to move ahead, 62-50, with 1:27 left in the third quarter. The Sparks forced five turnovers during the spree and turned them into nine points; eight Lynx turnovers resulted in 15 points during the period.
Parker added a three-pointer that extended Los Angeles' lead to 65-52 with 46.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We stalled offensively against their zone, the triangle-and-two and whatever else they threw at us," Reeve said. "I just thought we were overanalyzing. We kind of had that paralysis by analysis."
Yet recent history defused any lingering paralysis.
"We've been in those type of situations before, and we've had to make some huge comebacks," said Lynx forward Maya Moore, who finished with 20 points.
Moore began the recovery with a pair of three-point shots in the first 2:49 of the fourth quarter.
"With her hitting those threes, it put them in a tough spot," said Seimone Augustus, who led the Lynx with 21 points. "Their zone started to spread out a little bit wider. [Lindsay] Whalen got to get in there and score a few layups. I got to get in there and score a few layups."
Moore's two free throws and Rebekkah Brunson's tip-in gave the Lynx a 77-74 lead with 3:54 to play. Parker responded with five points -- including a 30-foot bank shot as the shot clock expired -- and Los Angeles regained a 79-77 advantage with 1:32 remaining. Reeve then called a timeout.
On the Lynx's ensuing possession, an open Wright -- who averaged 8.6 points during the regular season -- scored from 23 feet near the right baseline.
"It is a big shot on a big stage," Reeve said. "She stood in there with great confidence."
"It was a perfect shot," Moore said. "The minute it went in, I screamed, I double-fist-pumped, I looked at her and said, 'Yes, Monica!' I was so proud of her."
But on a day the WNBA honored L.A. coach Carol Ross as coach of the year and Nneka Ogwumike as rookie of the year, the Sparks' season ended sooner than they had hoped.
They had two chances to move ahead, but Alana Beard missed a 3-foot shot with 56.9 seconds left and a 16-foot jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Whalen finished with 17 points, and Brunson grabbed 10 rebounds. Parker made 14 of 22 shots, including three of six from three-point range, for 33 points, and she also had 15 rebounds.
|Univ of Minnesota||1||FINAL|
|SE Missouri St||74||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||58|
|New Mexico St||69||FINAL|
|San Jose St||51|
|San Diego St||60||FINAL|
|UC Santa Barbara||98||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||58||FINAL|
|William & Mary||68|