LOS ANGELES — Sylvia Fowles and the Minnesota Lynx weren’t about to let their season end in Los Angeles.
The WNBA MVP helped the Lynx force a decisive fifth game in the WNBA Finals by scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as Minnesota beat Los Angeles 80-69 on Sunday night. It’s the second consecutive year that these two teams will play a deciding game in Minnesota for the crown.
“Advantage? No, we’re back in Game 5. We wanted to make sure we came out and we played well,” Fowles said.
Minnesota, which is trying for its fourth title in seven years, played extremely well as they dominated inside the paint with baskets and rebounds. Minnesota outrebounded the Sparks 48-28. The Sparks had outrebounded the Lynx in Game 3 and that was a point of emphasis for the team to be more physical inside.
“To compete with Minnesota, you have to stay in the same game with them in the rebounding,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “Obviously, that was a wide margin. They were more aggressive, no question. They doubled our free throw attempts. I’m not saying that to debate the officiating. The point is they were a lot more aggressive and got themselves to the free-throw line. They gave themselves opportunities and second-chance points on the offensive boards. We didn’t play the way we needed to play to have success against them.”
Odyssey Sims led the Sparks with 18 points and Nneka Ogwumike added 17. No Sparks player reached double figures in rebounding.
Candace Parker, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, and the Sparks are hoping to become the league’s first repeat champion since Los Angeles in 2002.
In order to do that, they’ll have to win on Minnesota’s home floor again.
Ogwumike doesn’t enjoy that storyline, even though it finished with a storybook ending for the Sparks last season.
“No disrespect to that question, but I’m really tired of that question,” Ogwumike said. “This year is this year. No disrespect at all. It’s just like the 100th time I’ve heard it. This year is a different year, and I know it’s the same and I know that’s what everyone here wants to talk about it, but it’s a different year.”
Facing an end to their season, the Lynx were aggressive from the start, grabbing a lot of loose balls and dominating the glass. They trailed 10-8 before scoring 11 straight points in the first quarter.
The Lynx, who never led in Game 3, built as much as a 19-point lead in the third quarter. The Sparks rallied, but could never get closer than eight points late in the fourth quarter.
“I just love the way we competed for 40 minutes,” said Moore. “Everybody was really locked in and trying to be the aggressor the whole time. We didn’t play a perfect game, but did enough to beat a really good Sparks team on the road.”
In the first quarter, Lynx point guard Lindsey Whalen used her arm in a chopping motion to foul Sims in transition. Whalen was called for a common foul but it was reviewed and upgraded to a Flagrant 1. Sims stayed down on the floor but was fine and would stay in the game. Still, that physical play seemed to set the tone for the Lynx, who were a different team than in a 75-64 loss two days earlier.
“That was the beginning of the game,” Sims said. “It’s over now. Our mindset is focused on getting better and concentrating on Game 5.”
Sims declined not to talk about that play, but it was clear it energized the Lynx.
“Each team has the mindset that you don’t want to give your opponent anything easy,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It’s kind of interesting, Magic (Johnson) is sitting there and I suspect he was thinking of when that was just a foul. Not review, flagrant, just a foul. It was a playoff foul. We have this new term of unnecessary. Well that’s kind of subjective. We thought it was necessary that she not get the layup off.
“With the new rules and the world we live in, it was deemed unnecessary.”
PARTY OF FIVE
The Lynx didn’t have a good performance overall from their starters in Game 3 and two of them — Whalen and Seimone Augustus — didn’t score. On Sunday, four of the five starters scored in double figures. Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Fowles and Augustus combined for 65 points and 43 rebounds. Whalen scored four points, but added eight assists.
FREE THROW DISPARITY
The Lynx made 19 of 30 free throws while the Sparks shot just 16 and made 12.
RAINING ON THE 3-POINT PARADE
The Sparks missed 17 of 22 3-point attempts. Four of the five starters missed all of their 3-pointers. Alana Beard, Ogwumike, Parker and Chelsea Gray were a combined 0-for-12.
Flying the friendly skies?
The Sparks and Lynx are on the same flight from Los Angeles to Minnesota on Monday.
Actor Anthony Anderson, actress Vivica A. Fox, former WNBA player Tina Thompson and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti were at the game. … The Sparks went into their locker room during the national anthem in silent protest for the fourth consecutive game.