Minnesota Lynx

Lynx capture 3rd title in 5 years with 69-52 win in Game 5

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) With a sweltering defense and a yearning to celebrate in front of their loyal fans, the Minnesota Lynx turned a tense WNBA Finals into a runaway.

Sylvia Fowles had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Lynx captured their third championship in five years with a 69-52 victory over the Indiana Fever in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Seimone Augustus added 16 points and Rebekkah Brunson grabbed 14 rebounds for the Lynx, who also won it all in 2011 and 2013. Maya Moore scored just five points on 1-for-8 shooting, but the Lynx defense forced 21 turnovers and held Indiana to 35.7 percent shooting in the league’s first Game 5 since 2009.

Tamika Catchings had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Fever, who were looking for their second championship.

Finally, the Lynx got to celebrate on their home court.

They won their first two titles on the road in Atlanta, forcing the success-starved Twin Cities sports fans to revel from afar. When the final buzzer sounded, a franchise-record 18,933 fans waved white towels while Prince watched from a suite above Target Center’s lower bowl.

And celebrate they did.

Augustus shed tears of joy after a throwback performance. Owner Glen Taylor hugged Cheryl Reeve, and Moore leaped on to the scorer’s table and pumped her fists toward the crowd.

“The way we grinded together, a lot of things happen throughout the season that people don’t even know,” Augustus said. “We kept grinding and working despite everything that we’ve been through.”

It was a stunning collapse for the previously unflappable Fever, who had staved off elimination five straight times in these playoffs leading into Game 5.

January and Catchings helped turn Indiana into a tough, confident bunch that erased an 18-point deficit to beat the New York Liberty in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, but finally ran into a wall they couldn’t break through at the boisterous Target Center on Wednesday night.

In the second and third quarters, the Fever scored 12 points total and turned the ball over 17 times.

Star guard Briann January scored six points in the first quarter for Indiana, but didn’t get her next bucket until six minutes were gone in the third quarter. She finished with 13 points on 6-for-15 shooting.

The game got off to an ugly start, with the Lynx slugging out a 27-21 lead at halftime in the lowest-scoring first half in finals history. Neither team could hit a shot or hold on to the ball, and Moore was held to just three points on 1-for-5 shooting.

The Lynx kept the defense set to stifling in the second half, but finally started to generate a little offense in the third to gradually pull away.

Fowles, who was named series MVP, had her way inside as she did for much of the series and finally got some help from Augustus, who chipped in a vintage jumper and drive before Renee Montgomery turned the 20th turnover of the game into a layup just before the third-quarter buzzer that pushed Minnesota’s lead to 19 points.

In a community that has suffered through so much sports heartache over the last two decades, the Lynx have cemented themselves as a welcome respite. The record crowd that turned out for Game 5 got to watch a star-studded team that has become the league’s gold standard finish off one of the most impressive five-year runs in WNBA history.

Four finals appearances. A championship every other season starting in 2011. And on Wednesday night, a little revenge that was three years in the making.

The Fever stunned the heavily favored Lynx in 2012, beating them at home in Game 1 and finishing them off back home in Indiana to dethrone the champions. The Lynx came back to win it in 2013 before losing to Phoenix in the Western Conference finals last year.

The march to their third championship was harder than ever, with stars Lindsay Whalen and Augustus missing big chunks of time with injuries and a style-altering trade that brought Fowles to the post midseason.

Reeve said the struggles made her veteran core appreciate this run more than any other, and they partied like it.

“It was a piece of cake,” Reeve deadpanned before getting choked up. “I’m just so proud.”

WNBA Finals between Lynx and Fever go to decisive Game 5

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) It’s only fitting these WNBA Finals are going the distance.

“It’s absolutely been a great series,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Four really, really hard fought games. Why not go to a Game 5? It’s been that good of a series. It’s one of those things that people like to see. I think it’s good for the game. Good to have eyes on our product right now because there’s a lot of great things to watch and a lot of great people out there putting it all out there.”

This is the first time since 2009 the league’s championship has gone the full length. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Minneapolis, where the Fever won Game 1.

“It gives us confidence knowing that we’ve been able to win on the road all season long,” Indiana coach Stephanie White said. “We’re happy to be playing another day.”

Indiana won 75-69 on Sunday night in Game 4. As they’ve done all postseason, the Fever found a way to stave off elimination. Indiana is 5-0 in the playoffs this season in elimination games. Starting with their run to the franchise’s lone title in 2012, the Fever are 9-2 in elimination games.

The only other series to make it to a fifth game since the WNBA started playing best-of-five in 2005 were in 2006 and 2007. History may be on Indiana’s side. The team that won the championship in all three of those series lost Game 3.

Maya Moore, who hit a buzzer-beating shot for the Lynx in Game 3, can appreciate what this series has meant.

“It’s been a fun one to watch,” she said. “Especially the last few games have been very fun from a fans standpoint. Lots of great things happening, players making plays. If I was to say where do I want to finish my season, it would be at the Target Center.”

Now the Lynx return home with a chance to win their third title in five years. Only the Houston Comets won more in a similar stretch when they took the first four WNBA championships. The Lynx won their previous two titles on the road, in Atlanta in 2011 and 2013. They’ll have a chance to win one in front of their home fans.

“Great opportunity for us and our fans who have been with us all season,” Moore said. “That’s the beauty of it. Be ourselves at homes. We have a really good chance if we do that.”

Tamika Catchings has been a huge reason for the Fever’s postseason run, seemingly willing them to victories.

“This was a great series for the WNBA, great for women’s basketball,” Catchings said. “It’s great it’s on TV and so many people are locked into this that have never seen a WNBA game. Never been interested in women’s basketball. Basketball is basketball. You can’t deny there’s great competition on both sides. Great plays on both sides of the ball. It’s only fitting that we go to Game 5. We’ll go to Minnesota and the place will be loud. That’s what you play for.”

Catchings announced before the season she will retire after the 2016 season. She has spent her whole career in Indiana, getting to the title series three times. She was on the team that lost to Phoenix in Game 5 in 2009.

“We’ve been very blessed as an organization to be able to make the playoffs 11 years straight,” she said. “But making it to the finals, out of 11 years, we’ve only been there three times. So this doesn’t happen every single year, and every game you have to take advantage of your next opportunity.”

 

Moore hits winner to lift Lynx over Fever 80-77

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore made a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the top of the key to give the Minnesota Lynx an 80-77 victory over the Indiana Fever on Friday night in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

Moore, who finished with 24 points, took the inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left, moved to her right to elude a defender and swished the winner. The referees reviewed the play for a few minutes before declaring the basket good and leaving the Fever crowd stunned.

Minnesota leads the best-of-five series 2-1.

Game 4 is Sunday night with Minnesota trying to win its third title in five years. The team that has won Game 3 has won 70 percent of the titles since the WNBA went to a best-of-five format in 2005. Indiana is trying to become the first No. 3 seed to win a title. The first 18 championships were won by either one or two seeds.

These two teams played in the finals in 2012, which Indiana won for its lone title. After splitting the first two games that season, Indiana routed Minnesota in Game 3. This one was a much tighter contest.

As had been the case in the first two of the games in the series where each team won by six points, this one came down to the end. Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth quarter. Minnesota trailed 77-74 with 2:08 left before Renee Montgomery hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 77 with 1:11 left.

Both teams missed shots over the next 40 seconds before Indiana had the ball with 25 seconds left. Shenise Johnson’s jumper from the corner was partially tipped with a few seconds left and the ball went out of bounds giving Minnesota one last chance to win in regulation, which Moore took.

She had been saddled in foul trouble all night, playing just 12 minutes through the first three quarters. Moore scored 12 points in the final period to lift the Lynx. Seimone Augustus added 13 points, and Montgomery had 12.

Johnson finished with 17 points to lead Indiana. Tamika Catchings added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Moore helped Minnesota build a 28-21 early in the second quarter and was playing well before she picked up her third foul and sat the rest of the half.

With Minnesota’s star on the bench, Indiana got going on offense. Catchings started a 14-6 run with her first basket of the game. Johnson had nine points during that spurt, including a 3-pointer which made it 37-34 and gave the Fever their first lead since early in the first quarter.

That shot capped a 9-0 burst in the run and brought the crowd of 16,332 fans, which included Paul George and many members of the Indiana Pacers, to their feet. George, C.J. Miles and Pacers coach Frank Vogel bought 1,500 tickets for this game for fans.

Indiana led 42-38 at the half.

During the second quarter Indiana honored former stars Katie Douglas and Tammy Sutton-Brown, who helped the Fever win their lone title in 2012. They were given framed pictures during a timeout in the second quarter.