In a back-and-forth, do-or-die series, the Los Angeles Sparks came out on top with a 77-76 victory on Thursday night in Minnesota to claim the 2016 Title. Their first title since 2002, the Sparks were led by their dominant front court duo of Candace Parker and 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike.
Magic Johnson, LA’s General Manager, accepted the Championship trophy and Candace Parker was named the Finals MVP after a stellar performance across all five Finals games.
How the Sparks did it:
In an instant classic, the Sparks came back to top the Lynx, 77-76, on a Nneka Ogwumike shot with 3.1 seconds left. Longtime Sparks star Candace Parker capped the first Finals of her career with 28 points and 12 rebounds as L.A. captured its first title since 2002.
With their backs against the wall, the defending champs gutted out an 85-79 victory on the road in L.A., preventing the Sparks from celebrating their first title since 2002. Maya Moore authored another classic game in her decorated career, pouring in 31 points on 9-of-17 shooting and adding nine rebounds and five assists. The Lynx led by as many as 10 in the third quarter before the Sparks clawed their way back, but Moore iced the game with four free throws in the final 10 seconds.
Back in L.A., the Sparks wasted no time retaking command of the series, jumping out to a 13-2 lead 4:05 into the game. They closed the first quarter up, 32-17, falling just shy of the WNBA Finals record for points in the opening frame. Despite a Lynx run that brought that margin the margin to as little as eight, the Sparks held on to win, 92-75, to move within one game of their first title since 2002. The MVP tandem of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike came up huge, combining for 45 points on 19-of-33 shooting.
The defending champs responded to a crushing Game 1 loss by taking command of Game 2 in the second quarter, using a 12-1 run to build a 14-point halftime lead. L.A. battled back with a 14-0 third quarter run to narrow the gap to three, but the Lynx once again pulled away. Maya Moore led the charge with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Sylvia Fowles also notched a double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds), and Seimone Augustus scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half.
Game 1 featured all the drama expected from this epic Finals matchup. And fittingly, the game came down to the final second. But it was not Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike or Maya Moore who stepped up as the hero. Sparks veteran Alana Beard sunk the game-winning jumper from the corner as the buzzer sounded to help L.A. steal the opener on the road.
The top two teams all season long fittingly meet in the Finals during the first season of the new WNBA Playoff format, marking the first-ever championship matchup between two Western Conference teams. All eyes will be on Sparks star Candace Parker during her first Finals and L.A.’s first since 2003. The Sparks are eyeing their first title since repeating in 2002 — a feat the Lynx hope to accomplish for the first time. A Minnesota title would be the team’s fourth in six season, matching the Houston Comets for the most all-time.