MINNEAPOLIS — The stage is set, the final adjustments have been made and the WNBA is set to crown a champion Wednesday night (8PM ET, ESPN 2). And the enormity of the situation is something that is not lost on the two teams fighting for WNBA glory.
After all, it’s the first Game 5 in the WNBA Finals since 2009. The Phoenix Mercury knocked off the Indiana Fever in five games that year, and that series was one marked by similar talks of the series’ place among the best WNBA Finals in league history.
Now, four games into the series, the WNBA Finals 2015 presented by Boost Mobile has created its own lore. Indiana took Game 1 on the road, which gave the Indiana Fever two games at home to win the title.
But as Maya Moore has done throughout her young, yet illustrious career, she hit a clutch shot when her team was in dire need of heroics. With 1.7 seconds remaining in Game 3, Moore hit what will go down as one of the biggest shot in WNBA Finals history.
Suddenly, Indiana was on the ropes. Again. Yet the Fever rose to the occasion in Game 4 behind a balanced effort from Marissa Coleman, Shenise Johnson, Tamika Catchings and the Fever bench.
So now it’s Game 5. As Fever guard Briann January said following Game 4, the fifth and final game will be an all-out “war.”
“It’s going to take absolutely everything,” January said, “and I’m sure everybody is going to say that, but it is. I’m sure [Minnesota’s] going to come out pissed off that they lost a game, that they lost an opportunity to win a championship in four. We have to be ready for that. We have to play our best basketball of the year, plain and simple, to be able to walk out of there with a championship. So, it’s going to be tough and we’ve got to clean it up and refocus and get better before then.”
Fever forward Marissa Coleman hasn’t played in a game of this magnitude since she was playing for an NCAA title at the University of Maryland. That experience, though, is beneficial for Coleman’s approach to Game 5. It’s a winner-take-all game for a chance to culminate a season’s worth of hard work.
“It’s going to take everything,” Coleman said. “We’re going to have to put together a complete 40-minute game. There’s not going to be a lot of margin for errors. We’re not going to be able to say, ‘Oh, next game.’ All the little mistakes we made [in Game 4], offensive rebounds. It’s going to be even more crucial next game.”
For Minnesota, Game 5 is a second chance this series to bring home the franchise’s third WNBA title (2011, 2013). It’s a chance to avenge the franchise’s 2012 loss to Indiana, which is something the players have shied away from discussing, but undoubtedly something that weighs in the back of the core’s minds.
“It’s going to be a grind,” said Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson, who was a member of that 2012 Lynx team. “It’s going to be a fight. I think you have two teams here that are really intense and are really going to try to leave everything out there to do what they can to get the win for their team. I think it’s going to be intense, it’s going to be exciting, but it’s definitely going to be a fight.”
“It’s huge,” added Brunson’s frontcourt-mate Devereaux Peters. “It’s kind of back to that feeling you had in college. You never know when your last game is going to be, so you have to fight every night. With the league you can be a little bit more calm because you know it’s a series, but I haven’t really been a part of many series that come down to this. Especially in five games, obviously, it’s been a long time. It’s huge. It’s very big for us and the league. And just the fact that it’s been such a great series all around, it’s been fun to be a part of.”