The Los Angeles Sparks took a 28-2 lead in their WNBA Finals opener. Then the Minnesota Lynx came back and forced some heroics from Chelsea Gray.
The Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx played one of the most competitive and classic WNBA Finals series — and, perhaps, basketball series — the league has ever seen last year. It came down to Nneka Ogwumike’s putback with two seconds left to decide the title for the Sparks.
The whole WNBA season this year seemed like a long wait for this moment — Game One of the WNBA Finals between the Sparks and Lynx again. The rematch.
It did not disappoint. From nearly beginning to end.
The Sparks jumped out to a 28-2 lead to open the game, but held on at the end in a bonkers final two minutes that saw four lead changes. It ended with Chelsea Gray, a bit player in last year’s Finals matchup, hitting a pull-up jumper from the elbow to deliver the Sparks an 85-84 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, giving the Sparks a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-five series.
Gray had 27 points and six assists to lead the Sparks. She hit the game-winning jumper with 2.0 seconds left to deliver the victory, one of two big shots she made in the final moments of the game.
As the Lynx slowly worked their way back into the game, cutting it to 10 points entering the final quarter, the star power from both squads was on full display.
The Lynx’s Maya Moore scored 27 points herself, including a go-ahead layup with six seconds left before Gray’s heroics. The Lynx took advantage of a slowly reacting defense after Essence Carson missed two free throws with the Sparks up one.
This was the kind of back-and-forth action the two teams had throughout much of the fourth quarter with the team’s exchanging body blows and big shots time and time again.
After a Candace Parker shot for the Sparks, Seimone Augustus hit a shot for the Lynx. After Nneka Ogwumike split a pair of free throws, league MVP Sylvia Fowles answered. There was no separation between the two teams.
But it came down to the two stars of the game.
Gray hit a tough jumper from the elbow to give the Sparks a one-point lead. Moore then missed a layup that would have given the Lynx the lead. She redeemed herself after Carson missed her two free throws.
And then Gray sealed the deal for the Sparks.
With home-court advantage now, the Lynx face a must-win Game Two on Tuesday at Williams Arena to avoid facing elimination in Game Three.