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For the fourth time in six finals appearances, Lynx drop Game 1 at home

Well, it’s not as if this is familiar territory. The Lynx are playing in their sixth WNBA finals in seven years and Sunday, for the fourth time, they lost Game 1 at home.

What a strange game.

It was 28-2 Sparks before some fans had even reached their seats. And yet the Lynx fought back to take two one-point leads in the final minute of the fourth quarter before losing 85-84 on Chelsea Gray's 14-footer with 2 seconds left.

But, ultimately, the Lynx couldn’t get defensive stops when they needed them, and they had no answer for Gray, who matched Maya Moore with 27 points, who hit two key jumpers down the stretch, including a 14-footer with 2 seconds left to give the Sparks a one-point win.

After the game was over Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t want to talk about the comeback, but about the poor play that put the team in a 26-point hole.

“I know everybody is going to talk about what a great comeback it was,’’ she said. “But that’s not the world we live in. That means absolutely nothing to us. It’s more what we did in the early part of the game that we’re focused on.’’

What happened was the Lynx started the game 1-for-11, and that slow start on offense affected the defense, which was horrible in the first seven-plus minutes.

Here are some final thoughts on the game:

--Moore was very, very good. With Rebekkah Brunson struggling and not playing much – more on that in a bit – Moore was forced to guard Sparks forward Candace Parker. She held Parker to 15 while scoring 27 herself, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

--Struggling to defend the quick Sparks, Reeve went to a small lineup that included guard Jia Perkins, who was a plus-25 (best on the team) in 28 minutes played. That said, the Lynx need Brunson for her rebounding and defense on Parker.

--I don’t think I’ve ever watched a quarter of professional basketball in which one team failed to get a rebound. The lynx were out-rebounded 13-0 in the first quarter Sunday. But they out-rebounded the Sparks 35-21 the rest of the way.

--The Lynx are going to need more out of the point guard spot than the eight points on 3-for-12 shooting that Lindsay Whalen and Renee Montgomery had.

--Also strong tonight was Seimone Augustus, who scored 19 points, and Sylvia Fowles, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Of those totals, 19 points and all 13 rebounds came after the first quarter.

--This was the first time in 23 games in the Cheryl Reeve era that the Lynx scored 80 points in a playoff game and lost.

A good start is essential for Lynx in WNBA FInals

--Sunday afternoon the Lynx will host the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 1 of the best-of-five WNBA finals at Williams Arena.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve wants to see a better result than last year in Game 1.

The Sparks took the first game of the finals last season, beating the Lynx at Target Center. The Lynx were able to get one of two games in L.A., forcing a Game 5 back in Minnesota, where the Sparks won again.

In six previous finals appearances, the Lynx have been the top seed each time. But they have dropped the first game three times.

They lost to Indiana in Game 1 in 2012, ultimately losing to the Fever in four games. In 2015 Indiana came to Target Center and took Game 1. The Lynx won the second game, then won Game 3 in Indiana on Maya Moore’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. Ultimately, Minnesota won their third title in Game 5 at Target Center.

But, in this rematch series between two teams so close In talent, Reeve has given a lot of thought to how she can get her team ready for Game 1, a must-win in her mind.

“I’m more mindful of that now, in that, obviously, I’ve done something wrong in terms of preparation and mindset,’’ Reeve said after Lynx practice Saturday. “So I analyze that a little bit, replay it in my mind. What was the narrative going into this thing? Was it too much on a bigger picture as opposed to Game 1? I re-centered myself on that, focusing not on the outcome of Game 1, but the process [of preparing]. That’s what makes us really good. I wanted to return to our roots when it came to that.’’

Guard Lindsay Whalen pointed out the Lynx’s strong opening game against Washington in the league semifinals as an encouraging sign.

“We took a good step against Washington,’’ she said. “We came out with a lot of aggression and energy. We have to do that tomorrow, make sure we’re ready to go from the beginning.’’

--Talk about staying power. When the series starts Sunday there will be four players – and three starters – between the two teams that entered the league together. The 2004 WNBA draft, one of the best in league history, included seven players who would play in one or more All Star Games and a number of players with WNBA title rings. Diana Taurasi went first overall in 2004, followed by current Sparks starter Alana Beard, Nicole Powell, and Whalen. Rebekkah Brunson went 10th in the draft. Lynx backup guard Jia Perkins was also drafted that year.

Whalen is the all-time winningest player in league history, and Brunson is fourth.

“We’re still going,’’ Whalen said. “I think that ’04 class, it’s got to be one of the best ever, if not the best.

--Jantel Lavender, the L.A. Sparks’ top post player off the bench, will probably not need much time to acclimate to Williams Arena. She played here while starring for Ohio State, appearing at Williams four times, with OSU winning three of them.

“A lot of people will have to get used to this raised floor, but I played on it a lot,’’ she said.