|5:30 PM PT6:30 PM MT7:30 PM CT8:30 PM ET0:30 GMT8:30 5:30 PM MST7:30 PM EST4:30 UAE (+1)02:3020:30 ET7:30 PM CTNaN:� , October 1, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California Attendance: 13,500
Lynx defeat Sparks to force Game 5 in WNBA Finals
(TSX / STATS) -- LOS ANGELES -- It is not easy to close out a championship-caliber team.
The Lynx proved as much Sunday night when Sylvia Fowles scored 22 points and Rebekkah Brunson added 18 to lead Minnesota to an 80-69 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center, forcing a decisive Game 5 in the WNBA Finals.
The teams will travel to Minnesota to compete for the title on Wednesday. Los Angeles will look to earn its second championship in a row, while Minnesota was the 2011, 2013 and 2015 winner.
Fowles grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, while Brunson had 13. Minnesota forward Maya Moore contributed 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Seimone Augustus added 10 points and eight boards.
Guard Odyssey Sims scored 18 points to lead the Sparks, followed closely by Nneka Ogwumike, who contributed 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Los Angeles' Candace Parker had 11 points and eight boards.
In this first-punch series, both teams have fought hard to set the pace from tipoff.
"We knew it was a tall task," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
Unlike the first three games, the teams were neck-and-neck through the start of the first quarter in Game 4.
A flagrant-1 foul committed by Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen against Sims ignited Minnesota. The Lynx pulled ahead, finishing the quarter with a 21-16 lead.
Reeve wrote off the foul postgame, suggesting it wouldn't have raise eyebrows in the past.
"We thought it was necessary that she not get the layup off," said Reeve. "We feed off Lindsay."
"I think it was positive energy," Fowles said, "and she got us going."
Every game this series has been won by the first-quarter leader, making this surge of energy crucial for Minnesota.
The Lynx continued distancing themselves from the Sparks in the second quarter, leading 43-31 at halftime. Moore, who went scoreless throughout the first half of Game 3, earned eight points by intermission while Brunson hit double digits in the first half with 13 points.
"I thought we panicked offensively when we started falling behind," Sparks coach Brian Agler said.
The Lynx dominated inside the paint and outrebounded the Sparks 26-14 in the first half.
"To compete with Minnesota," Agler said, "obviously you have to stay in the game with the rebounding and obviously that was a wide margin tonight."
The sentiment travelled throughout the Sparks' locker room.
"We have to be able to keep rebounding in the forefront of our minds from the beginning of the game," Ogwumike said.
Fowles scored four quick points for the Lynx at the start of the third quarter with a 3-foot layup and a 1-foot shot.
The Lynx continued to pressure the Sparks, holding them to a 3-point percentage of just 12.5 percent (2 of 16) by the end of the third quarter.
A strong fourth quarter showing by Sims, who extended her playoff double-digit point streak to seven games, helped the Sparks begin to close in on the Lynx. A 24-foot 3-point jumper by Sims pulled the Sparks within 63-54 with 7:16 to play.
That didn't provide the momentum the Sparks needed, and the Lynx were able to hold on to their lead, outrebounding the Sparks 48-28 by the final buzzer and extending their season by one more game.
"We're a team that's tough-minded, resilient, when our back's against the wall," Reeve said. "I think L.A. would probably say the same thing. We're a team that shares that with them."
The teams will find out whose will is strongest on Wednesday.
NOTE: Lynx C Sylvia Fowles posted her 11th WNBA Finals double-double in Game 4, furthering her own record. ... The Minnesota Lynx scored just eight points in the first quarter of Game 3, tying for fewest first-quarter points in Finals history. ... Sparks C Candace Parker moved into third place in WNBA career postseason blocks on Friday, then added one more Sunday to bring her total to 72. ... In Game 3, the Sparks' bench was outscored by the Lynx's bench 28-11. Minnesota reserves had just an 11-7 advantage in Game 4.
Updated October 2, 2017