|12:30 PM PT1:30 PM MT2:30 PM CT3:30 PM ET19:30 GMT3:30 12:30 PM MST2:30 PM EST23:30 UAE21:3015:30 ET2:30 PM CTNaN:� , September 24, 2017
Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota Attendance: 11,823
Gray's shot gives Sparks series lead over Lynx
(TSX / STATS) -- MINNEAPOLIS -- It was unseasonably hot outside the arena in Minnesota. Inside, the Los Angeles Sparks found a way to start even hotter, and won on an ice-cold shot at the finish.
Chelsea Gray hit a fall away jumper with two seconds left as the Sparks escaped with an 85-84 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday.
Gray's dramatic shot occurred after they surrendered a massive lead and fell behind for the first time in the final minute.
"I think all athletes dream of that moment, especially at this magnitude and on this stage, you think of hitting that shot," Gray said. "I'm glad it went in. I think we drew up a play and my teammates had confidence in me to knock it down."
Gray led Los Angeles with 27 points, while Odyssey Sims had 16 for the Sparks, who took over home-court advantage in the series. Candace Parker was their top rebounder with 12. The game had four lead changes, all of them in the final minute of play.
"We found a way to get the ball in the right person's hands," Sparks coach Brian Agler said. "Chelsea Gray made some very, very big plays throughout the course of the game, especially down the stretch."
The Sparks scored the game's first dozen points and led by as many as 26 in the first quarter, then overcame the second-half charge by the Lynx to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Lynx battled back from the rough start and took their first lead of the game at 82-81 with 49.8 seconds remaining, when Seimone Augustus hit a 3-pointer. When Maya Moore scored on a layup for an 84-83 lead with 6.5 seconds left, it looked like a miracle comeback.
But Gray's final shot ended it.
Moore led the Lynx with 27 points while Sylvia Fowles had 22. Fowles was the game's top rebounder with 13.
While Minnesota made just one of its first 11 shots, its defense was struggling, opening the door for Los Angeles to sprint from the gate. The Sparks blasted their way to a 28-2 lead at one point, hitting a quartet of 3-pointers and quieting the Minnesota crowd.
"Everybody's going to talk about what a great comeback it was, but that's not the world we live in," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "That means absolutely nothing to us. It's more what we did in the early part of the game that we're focused on. Obviously pretty disappointed that happened."
The Sparks out-rebounded Minnesota 13-0 in the first quarter and emerged with a 32-11 lead after the opening 10 minutes. Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen put up a 41-foot shot at the first quarter buzzer that went in, but after review the 3-pointer was waved off, as it was released after the horn sounded.
Minnesota chipped away in the second quarter and cut the Los Angeles lead to 10, with the Sparks up 43-33 at halftime. Moore led all first-half scorers with 14 points, while Sims led the Sparks with 11. Candace Parker was the Sparks' top first half rebounder with seven, while Fowles had five rebounds for Minnesota, all of them in the second quarter.
The Lynx started the second half strong and cut the Los Angeles lead to 50-45, but the Sparks kept getting open for shots and prevented the home team from closing the gap in the third quarter. Essence Carson's long-range jumper with 1.9 seconds left in the third gave the Sparks a 68-56 lead that they took into the final quarter.
"It took us too long to adjust, but it's not anything that we haven't seen before," Moore said. "Eventually we got our wheels going and we're going to carry that momentum into Game 2."
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
NOTES: Members of the Lynx and their coaches stood at attention with arms linked while the national anthem was played prior to the game. The Sparks' players left the court prior to the song and were in their locker room. They were greeted with some boos upon returning to the court when the song concluded. ... The winner of this series will earn their franchise's fourth WNBA title. That will tie either Los Angeles or Minnesota with the now-defunct Houston Comets for most titles in league history. ... The Sparks, who beat Minnesota in the finals last season, can become the WNBA's first repeat champion since Los Angeles won the 2001 and 2002 league titles. ... The arena's lower bowl was a sea of white on Sunday after the Lynx gave out a t-shirt to each ticket holder congratulating C Sylvia Fowles on her league MVP award.
Updated September 24, 2017