LOS ANGELES (AP) — Maya Moore scored 31 points and Minnesota’s defense held Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker in check to help the Lynx beat the Los Angeles Sparks 85-79 on Sunday night and force a decisive fifth game in the WNBA Finals.
Lindsay Whalen added 13 points, Seimone Augustus had 12 and Sylvia Fowles had 10 points and 13 rebounds in tying the series 2-2 and sending it back to Minneapolis, where the Lynx will try to win their record-tying fourth championship on Thursday.
“Great series, Game 5 in Minneapolis, we’re excited,” Moore said.
Ogwumike, the league MVP, scored 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting, while two-time MVP Parker shot 4 of 14 for 14 points for the Sparks, who were trying to close out their first title since 2002 in front of their fans at Staples Center.
Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 20 points off the bench. She was 6 of 11 and made all four of her free throws.
The Sparks outscored the Lynx 10-4 to open the fourth, tying it at 69-all on Parker’s driving bank shot as she fell out of bounds. Los Angeles got most of its points at the free throw line, going 6 of 9 in that span.
Whalen scored two straight baskets to put the Lynx back in front 73-69 on turnovers by Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, who finished with 15 points.
Trailing 77-72, Gray hit her fourth 3-pointer to draw the Sparks within two.
The teams traded baskets and Minnesota led 79-77. Parker was called for a shooting foul on Rebekkah Brunson, who made both free throws for an 81-77 lead. Before Parker fouled Brunson, it appeared that Minnesota hadn’t gotten the ball across halfcourt in time to avoid an 8-second violation. Replays looked to show that the ball was still in the backcourt when the shot clock was at 16.
Moore stole an inbounds pass and Ogwumike fouled her with 4 seconds left. Moore made both to close out the win.
“We appreciate each other too much to go down without playing like the Lynx,” Moore said. “That’s defense, playing together, and a lot of energy.”
The Lynx scored six in a row to take their largest lead, 52-42, early in the third. The quarter ended in a 3-point contest. The Sparks made three, including two by Gray, and Moore hit two 3s for the Lynx, who led 65-59 going into the fourth. Moore scored 10 points in the third.
Minnesota dominated the Sparks 22-4 in fastbreak points.
Brunson, who guarded Parker much of the time, finished with six points and five fouls. Fowles had four fouls.
KOBE & THE GIRLS
A bearded Kobe Bryant returned to the scene of some of his greatest career moments, watching courtside with wife Vanessa and their two daughters. Also on hand was Sparks co-owner Magic Johnson, who returned from Chicago where the Dodgers were playing the Cubs in the National League Championship Series at the same time. Lakers guard Lou Williams, Cedric the Entertainer and Marsai Martin of “black-ish” attended.
Game 5 is Thursday in Minnesota.
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