With 15.4 seconds remaining in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals, the green-clad fans in Target Center erupted, hands raised above their heads in glee following Maya Moore’s baseline jumper that gave the Lynx a 76-75 lead. She had done it again, as they all knew she would, and with just one more stop, the Lynx would be celebrating their fourth WNBA Championship.
Nneka Ogwumike had other ideas, however, and before the Lynx and their fans knew it, everything was silent, save for the sounds of the Sparks rushing the Target Center floor to celebrate their first title in 14 years.
“It’s just hard to come that close,” Maya Moore told reporters following the game. “The crowd was awesome. We’re so appreciative of all the support and the energy that they brought us. We gave it everything that we had.”
Moore was excellent in the game, finishing with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 11 assists, which left her just four rebounds shy of the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history. So too were the other members of the Lynx’s core, as Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles, and Lindsay Whalen combined for 46 points on 20-43 shooting.
For once, however, it wasn’t enough. So now, where does this group, who has won so often, and achieved so much, go from here? Well, to let Los Angeles Sparks head coach Brian Agler tell it, the answer is nowhere.
“[The Lynx] are not going to go away,” Agler said during his postgame press conference. “I know they’re getting older a little bit, but they’re going to be extremely competitive. It wouldn’t shock me at all if they were right back in the same spot next year.”
The Lynx are getting older–Brunson and Whalen will be 35, and Augustus 33 by the time next season rolls around–but as they proved this year, that’s not much of an issue given the level of talent on the roster. Head coach Cheryl Reeve did a splendid job keeping her team fresh this year, as none of the starters played more than 30 minutes per game, yet they still came away with the best record in the league.
As Reeve put it following Game 5, “They just said stick a fork in it last year, and all we did was get back to the Finals and have the best record in the league.”
And there’s little reason to think that the Lynx won’t be one of the league’s best teams once again next year. They had both the best offensive (107.2) and defensive (96.4) ratings, best rebounding percentage (53.8), and second best field goal percentage (47.1), in the regular season this year, and in addition rarely turned the ball over (third-best at 13.5 per game).
They were just two games better than the Sparks, but seven games better than the third-best team in the league, the Liberty, and a whole 10 ahead of the Sky, who finished fourth. They may be one year older, but barring a major injury, which of course is a possibility for any team, it just doesn’t seem possible for the Lynx to not be one of the league’s best teams again next year.
“I don’t know, maybe you guys should start writing how we’re old and washed up,” Coach Reeve said Thursday night.
If you do, however, just remember they’ll still have Maya Moore, and the grace of an odd-ending year. The last three times this group fell short of a championship under Reeve (2010, 2012, 2014), they came back the next year and won it all.