Whenever the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks face off in what has become one of the best rivalries in WNBA history, drama and excitement ensues.
On Sunday night at Target Center, there was plenty of drama and storylines that took place to kick off the 2018 WNBA season. But considering the two teams playing, that wasn’t much of a surprise.
From the Lynx celebrating their 2017 title with a pregame ceremony, to multiple players and coaches getting technicals following a mid-game altercation, to a back-and-forth game that ended in a last-second shot, the rivalry picked right up where it left off last October.
In a rematch of the last two WNBA Finals, the Sparks came away victorious in the first regular season game at Target Center since 2016, beating the Lynx 77-76 on a buzzer-beating layup by Chelsea Gray in the final seconds.
After Lindsay Whalen gave the Lynx a one-point lead with two free throws with 5.8 seconds left in the game, Gray and the Sparks answered right back as time expired to take the game.
The Sparks-Lynx rivalry continues to live up to the hype. Chelsea Gray called game 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 20, 2018
“The things that we can control that we didn’t control, that’s the frustrating part. Every team is going to want to come in here and win,” Maya Moore said during postgame. “A lot to learn from and a lot to be motivated by. We will be better than today.”
Minnesota held a 20-minute ceremony before Sunday’s game, celebrating their title from a year ago while getting their shiny new rings and fourth championship banner. The excitement from those pregame festivities might have carried over into the game, as the Lynx fell to the Sparks who had just nine players suit up for the game.
💥 ANOTHER ONE 💥 pic.twitter.com/HjAAxuv1l0
— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) May 20, 2018
Minnesota – which led by as much as eight in the game – began a freefall in the third quarter, getting outscored 25-11 in the quarter alone while racking up an uncharacteristically large number of turnovers. The Lynx finished with a total of 24 turnovers – which resulted in 23 Los Angeles points – in the loss, more than they had in any game all of last season.
“I honestly can’t even explain it. We had so many players out there that had no idea what they were doing for whatever reason,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “Maybe they were tired. No idea. What I told them was that I appreciated the players that came in to try and will us to win.”
Minnesota nearly pulled off the comeback win, thanks to a vintage Whalen performance in the fourth quarter – one that included her scoring 10 of her team-best 17 points – and a late resurgence from Sylvia Fowles, who recorded the 128th double-double of her career.
But in the end, Gray and the Sparks were just a little bit too much for the Lynx, whose night filled with celebration was spoiled with a last-second lay-up.
“I’m not going to get down on myself, it was the first game. You pretty much just have to adjust from here,” Fowles said. “We will watch some film tomorrow and see what we need to do better to get ready for the next game.”
The Lynx return to action on Wednesday night, when they host the Dallas Wings at 7 p.m. back at Target Center.