40 minutes is all that separates the Los Angeles Sparks and their first WNBA championship since 2002. 40 minutes are separating Candace Parker from the only WNBA honor that has eluded her in her illustrious career.
If the three-time Minnesota Lynx have it their way, that 40-minute window will be extended to Thursday for Game 5, where they can claim their fourth championship in six years in front of their hometown crowd.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are witnessing WNBA basketball at its finest.
With the pressure mounting for the Sparks to win at home, they are acting calm, but they understand what is at play here.
Sparks point guard Alana Beard, a 13-year vet looking for her first championship, said the Sparks need to maintain the consistency they displayed in Game 3, where they scored 34 points in the first quarter en route to a 92-75 win on Friday.
“(We got to) finish strong. That’s our mindset,” Beard said. “We have to go back and make more adjustments. We have to come out and play the way we’re capable of playing. If we do the little things, everything will take care of itself.”
For the Sparks, rebounding was a major key for them in Friday’s game, with Parker and Nneka Ogwumike grabbing nine apiece. Overall, the team outrebounded Minnesota 29-24, and commanded the offensive boards with an 11-5 advantage.
Minnesota, on the other hand, knows that in order for them to take the series back to the Target Center, they need to score and score fast. After averaging 85.8 points per game during the regular season, the Lynx have not been able to eclipse the 80-point mark at all during this series.
Seimone Augustus, part of the four-headed beast that fuels the Minnesota starting lineup (along with Lindsey Whalen, Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles), spoke of how important keeping the ball would be essential to winning Game 4.
“Offensively, we have to clean some things up because that led to a lot of turnovers. I think we had 13 turnovers. They made 24 points off of our 13 turnovers. If we clean that up, we should be fine in Game 4,” Augustus said.
Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP and co-leading lady for the Sparks, knows that the Lynx are dangerous and capable of swinging the series back to their favor.
“They’re a type of team that will make you pay for your mistakes. We had a few turnovers that they converted on, but we told each other that we had to take care of the ball,” Ogwumike said. “We have to make sure we don’t have any unforced turnovers. With this team, the game can flip at the switch of a hat.”
If the Sparks plan on clinching the series at home, their turnovers will have to be kept to a minimum. The team overall has averaged 14.1 turnovers during the playoffs, but kept themselves to a series-low seven in their Game 3 win.
For Minnesota, their overall goal is to do whatever it takes to bring the series back home.
“It’s a must-win game for us,” Augustus said. “We have to force a Game 5 back home in Minnesota where we know we’re confident of what we can do there. The fans are going to come out and support us in Minnesota.”
In the five appearances that the Lynx have made in the Finals since 2011, they have won eight games at home, including the clinching Game 5 last year that won them their third championship.
Be sure to tune into Game 4 tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN (5:30 PST), and also follow Swish Appeal for an exclusive in-game live chat.