The Minnesota Lynx come into Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale with one main objective while riding a WNBA-best five-game winning streak.
Win and they clinch a home playoff game.
With a victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday afternoon to round out the 34-game regular season schedule or a Seattle Storm loss to the Dallas Wings in Arlington, the Lynx would clinch the No. 6 seed in the league standings, resulting in an single-elimination home game in the opening around of the WNBA Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Instead, Minnesota saw its winning streak come to a halt at five games on the road to one of its biggest rivals and saw the Storm top the Wings on the road to finish out their season ahead of the postseason this week.
The Lynx, who dropped to the the Sparks 77-68 on Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, fell to a final record of 18-16 on the year with the regular season now in the books.
With the loss and the Seattle win, Minnesota also dropped down to the No. 7 seed and instead of hosting a playoff game in the first round — which would have been the result if it came away with a win on Sunday — they will travel to face the sixth-seeded Storm in the single-elimination opening-round playoff game at 9 p.m. CT on Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.
In the game in Los Angeles in the regular season finale, Los Angeles jumped out to an early lead over Minnesota and didn’t let up the rest of the way to conclude its season with an impressive home record of 15-2 at Staples Center.
The Sparks opened up the game outscoring the Lynx 19-16, before carrying a 36-34 lead into halftime.
Out of the break, Los Angeles built onto its first-half lead while holding a 22-14 advantage in the frame to carry a double-digit advantage of 58-48 into the final quarter.
In the last 10 minutes, the Sparks were able to hold off any Lynx comeback to win their 14th straight game on their home floor.
Minnesota, which struggled shooting the ball in the game while finishing at 37.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3, was led by rookie Napheesa Collier with a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Outside of Collier, Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and nine rebounds, Odyssey Sims had 11 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals, Lexie Brown pitched in with 11 points off the bench, Damiris Dantas had a nice all-around game of six points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Danielle Robinson added six points and four rebounds for the Lynx.
Riquna Williams led the way for Los Angeles with a team-best 15 points and three assists, while Chelsea Gray finished with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds and Candace Parker chimed in with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Sparks (22-12 overall), who shot 50.7 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three.
The Lynx will kick off the opening round of the WNBA Playoffs on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. CT on Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. The winner will advance to play in a single-elimination game on Sunday against either third-seeded Los Angeles or fourth-seeded Las Vegas Aces in the second round of the postseason. The loser will see its season officially come to an end.
Get ready, WNBA fans, it’s officially playoff time.