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COMMENTARY - Sparks, Lynx match up repeat of last year’s WNBA Finals

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By CATRINA FRANCIA, Senior Staff Writer

It’s been 17 years since the same teams have met in a back-to-back WNBA Finals. It’s also the second time in history that’s happened in the league.

The road to the WNBA Finals wasn’t an easy one for the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx. Especially the Sparks. Toward the end of Sunday’s game, I’m sure my blood pressure was 50 points higher than normal. OK, maybe not that high but I’m sure it was higher because the Sparks almost had a total collapse in the last two minutes of the game three.

Los Angeles had an 81-69 lead with four minutes left in the game and I began celebrating because I knew they were headed toward a Finals match up with the Lynx. Then the almost total collapse happened and I started thinking, “You don’t want a game four because you never want to give a team hope or confidence they can beat you in a five-game series.”

Like she’s done so many times since being on the Sparks, forward/center Candace Parker was the hero. She made a layup with 2.9 seconds remaining. That shot would be the game winner. Until that moment, the Phoenix Mercury had done an admirable job of making stops and tightening the defense. That one defensive lapse meant their season was over.

The Sparks only have a moment to savor the win against the Mercury because the Lynx await them for another showdown when the Finals begin Sunday. They also have an opportunity to accomplish a feat that hasn’t been done in 15 years—win back-to-back championships. In fact, Los Angeles was the last team that won two consecutive championships. The Lynx and Sparks have won three WNBA titles.

I’m sure the Lynx feel they have unfinished business after last year’s defeat on their home floor against the Sparks. Once again the Lynx are the No. 1 seed and the road to the championship goes through Minnesota.

This will be the Sparks’ fifth time competing for the title and I believe they have a shot at walking away with consecutive titles. Will it be an easy task? Of course not. Minnesota will make sure there won’t be another celebration on their home floor.

It would be nice if I could point to the regular season and say I know LA will win because they won the regular season series 2-1, but that’s flawed because last year Minnesota won the regular season series 2-1 and LA still won the championship.

The Sparks are actually playing better this year and they are going into the Finals on a 10-game win streak. Will that streak continue? I truly hope so. I know they won’t sweep the Lynx because they are a well-balanced team. The reigning MVP is the starting center for the Lynx and this is a veteran team that knows how to win.

I’ve been a fan of the Sparks since the inception of the WNBA and I’ve seen their high points, which included winning back-to-back WNBA championships, as well as their low points, being a lottery pick team.

The past three years have been some of the better years for the Sparks because CP3 is fully trusting her teammates and that’s apparent by her high assist numbers. There have been games when she’s had more assist than the starting point guard. In the clinching game against the Mercury, Parker had a career high 11 assists and she was three rebounds shy of a triple-double.

Like last year’s Finals, I think this year will also be a five-game series. Both teams are capable of winning on the road and both coaches are excellent at making in-game changes. Although the teams are almost evenly matched, I believe the Sparks have the advantage. The team has added a few veterans, the most notable is Odyssey Sims, who was obtained via trade. Sims has come into her own during the 10-game win streak and I think she’s hungry. I also believe she will be the X-factor during this series.

The Sparks biggest challenge will be guarding MVP Sylvia Fowles, the leagues fourth highest scorer this season. They will also have to contend with Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus. While this won’t be an easy task, the Lynx have to think about how they are going to guard CP3, Sims, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray.

Last year’s Finals was Gray’s coming-out party and that has shown in her play during the season. She also led the league in 3-point shooting and it seems her confidence is at an all-time high.

Although the road to the championship leads through Minnesota, I think we will see a repeat of last year’s Finals. The Sparks will win the five-game series and once again celebrate their win in Minnesota with their fourth WNBA title.