Lynx Headed Back To The Finals
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Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve joined Lynx radio play-by-play announcer Alan Horton just moments after Minnesota’s 80-79 win over Los Angeles on Sunday, and in her excitement she noted and important message that’s been on her team’s radar all season long.
“You can’t defend your title without being in the Finals, Alan Horton,” Reeve said as she finished up her interview.
The Lynx began their Road to Repeat back in early May when the full team reported back to Minnesota, knowing full well that winning back-to-back championships is no small feat. The last time it happened in the WNBA was the Sparks in 2001 and 2002. But the Lynx began the journey and have met nearly every challenge head-on, culminating in Sunday’s Game 2 win at Staples Center that swept the Sparks out of the playoffs and punched the Lynx’s ticket back to the WNBA Finals.
They’ll host either Connecticut or Indiana on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. for Game 1 to start the best of 5 series, then will host Game 2 on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) will be on the road at the Eastern Conference champions on Friday, Oct. 19 and Sunday, Oct. 21, respectively. The decisive Game 5 (if necessary) would be Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Target Center.
Sunday’s win was a small sample size of how difficult it is to repeat as Western Conference champions. The Lynx opened up a sizable lead in the first quarter, but facing elimination the Sparks responded and took a lead as big as 13 points in the second half.
Los Angeles began taking control in the third quarter, stringing together a run that helped take the lead at 52-50 for the first time since leading 2-0 in the opening minutes of the contest. A 3-pointer by Candace Parker with 46 seconds left in the third quarter expanded that lead to 65-52, putting the Sparks in position to force a Game 3 back at Target Center.
But from that point forward, the game belonged to Minnesota. In the final 10:46 of Sunday’s game, the Lynx outscored the Sparks 28-14, capped by guard Monica Wright’s game-winning 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining that put Minnesota up 80-79. Los Angeles’ final attempt with six seconds remaining fell short when Alana Beard’s shot clanked off the rim.
The loss was the Sparks’ second defeat at home this season. Between the regular season and playoffs they had been 17-1 when playing in Los Angeles in 2012.
“It’s really fun to play on this team because we’ve been in those types of situations before when we were playing down,” Moore said. “Ten points down is something. We’ve been through worse. We just had to keep playing.”
The Lynx returned home Sunday night and were met by a receptive crowd at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The team celebrated with their dedicated fans and enjoyed the moment knowing they have a full week to recover and prepare for whichever Eastern Conference opponent awaits them in the Finals.
But like it’s been all season, each victory is a stepping stone. The Lynx know their history, and just because a defending champion reaches the WNBA Finals it by no means guarantees a repeat. Most recently, the Detroit Shock won in 2006 and lost in the Finals to Phoenix in 2007. In 2005, the Sacramento Monarchs won the title and lost to the Shock in the Finals in 2006. Rebekkah Brunson was on both of those Sacramento teams, and Reeve was an assistant coach in Detroit during those WNBA Finals appearances.
So this week back in Minnesota, the Lynx will go back to work. They’ll prepare for what will be their biggest challenge of the season, winning a best of 5 on the league’s brightest stage, but they’ll do it knowing they’ve earned their shot at making history.
There’s no doubt they’ve enjoyed working together every step of the way.
“When you have good people, good things will happen,” Reeve said. “We do things the right way, the unselfish play. If you look at all of them, they have the same reputation. I’m fortunate to be in Minnesota in this window of opportunity we have.”
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