MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Alana Beard hit a jumper from the baseline just before time expired to lift the Los Angeles Sparks in a 78-76 victory over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday.
With the defense collapsing on Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike in the paint, Beard was all alone in the corner. She took the pass from Chelsea Gray and knocked down jumper with a hand in her face.
As the ball splashed through, Moore put her head in her hands, and the Sparks celebrated a thrilling victory, their second on Minnesota’s court this season.
Kristi Toliver scored 19 points to lead Los Angeles and Parker had 14 points and nine rebounds in her finals debut. League MVP Ogwumike added 19 points for the Sparks in the opener of the best-of-five series.
Sylvia Fowles had 18 points and 13 rebounds and Lindsay Whalen scored 18 points for top-seeded Minnesota. Maya Moore scored all 18 of her points in the second half to move into first place on the WNBA’s career finals scoring list, but the Lynx committed 16 turnovers and got caught scrambling on the final possession of the game.
In years past these two teams never could have met in the finals because both are in the Western Conference. But the league changed its playoff format this year and seeded all of the teams based on record, not geography. The result in the first year could not have been better for the league — the top two teams throughout the season meeting for a highly anticipated, star-studded showdown.
Parker has been one of the league’s brightest stars for years, but has never been able to reach the league’s biggest stage. She came in with added motivation to this series against the Lynx and their four Olympians, after watching the Rio Games from home because she was left off the team. She hit 5 of 12 shots, including a 3-pointer, and drew so much attention from the Lynx defense that Kristi Toliver and Chelsea Gray feasted on back cuts to the basket. Gray scored 12 points and Toliver’s pull-up jumper gave Los Angeles a 74-71 lead with 3 minutes to play.
Moore went coast-to-coast to tie the game at 76 with 24.7 seconds to play, but the Sparks had the answer.
MOORE’S MARK: The Minnesota star was 0 for 4 in the first half, but made 7 of 10 shots in the final two quarters to move past Diana Taurasi for first place on the WNBA’s career scoring list for the finals. She set the mark with 5:20 to play after hitting a jump shot and converting the three-point play.
TOP 20: The WNBA hosted more than a dozen members of the top 20 players in league history for a halftime ceremony. Each player was presented with a ring to commemorate it. Whalen, Moore, Parker and Augustus all participated in the ceremony, and the league extended the length of halftime to allow them to receive their rings and then get back to the locker room to meet with coaches and teammates.
UP NEXT: Game 2 is on Tuesday in Minneapolis.
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