Lynx leap into WNBA finals
LOS ANGELES -- Simone Augustus scored 21 points, Maya Moore added 20 and the Minnesota Lynx held off the Los Angeles Sparks 80-79 on Sunday, advancing to the WNBA finals to defend their title.
Alana Beard missed a 16-footer at the final buzzer for the Sparks as Candace Parker pulled her jersey over her face in anguish.
Lindsay Whalen added 17 points for the Lynx, who trailed by 10 points early in the fourth and came in with a 4-21 record in Los Angeles.
The Lynx, who swept the series 2-0, await the Eastern champion, either Connecticut or Indiana.
Parker had 33 points and 15 rebounds, Kristi Toliver added 16 points and Beard 15.
Minnesota got two 3-pointers from Moore to close to 70-67 before the Sparks committed three turnovers. Whalen made two straight baskets to put the Lynx back in front, 73-72, for the first time since early in the third.
The Lynx extended their lead to 77-74 before Parker scored consecutive baskets. She banked in a 3-pointer from 30 feet with 1:31 remaining, giving the Sparks a 79-77 lead as Parker broke into a big smile.
But Monica Wright answered with a 3-pointer to put the Lynx back in front, 80-79. She then missed another 3 from in front of the Sparks’ bench. After a timeout, the Sparks scrambled to make their final play, when Parker didn’t touch the ball.
In the third, the Sparks used a 17-0 run to lead 65-57. The Lynx went more than 5 minutes without a basket while Los Angeles took its first lead since the start of the game.
The Sparks trailed by 12 points early in the second quarter, when they outscored the Lynx 22-15, to trail 40-39 at halftime. Parker keyed a 17-9 spurt with eight points, including a fast-break driving layup that got Los Angeles within one. She had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the half. Beard and Toliver each had four points in the spurt. The Lynx forced 10 turnovers in the half, when they got outrebounded 19-12.
Before the game, the Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike was honored as WNBA rookie of the year and Carol Ross was chosen coach of the year.
Ogwumike averaged 14 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists during the regular season. She was drafted No. 1 overall out of Stanford by the Sparks.
Ross, in her first season with the Sparks, guided them to a 24-10 record, including a 16-1 mark at Staples Center. She previously was an assistant with the Atlanta Dream and coached 16 years at Florida and Mississippi.
Parker was runner-up for league MVP honors to Connecticut’s Tina Charles last month.
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