Minneapolis, MN -- The rivalry that defines women’s professional basketball in its entirety is summed up in simply two words: Lynx and Sparks.
In the wake of a critical game 5, no one is surprised to see these two forces battling it out for the championship title yet again.
The question remains, what will it take for each team to come out on top?
Minnesota will need to focus on keeping their aggression at an all-time high throughout the game. They'll need to get to the boards and make sure that on every missed-shot they always get second and third shot attempts.
Lynx forward Sylvia Fowles, this season's MVP, knows all too well how important a role hustle will play into who walks out of Wednesday's game a WNBA champion.
“It’s going to play a big factor. I’m pretty sure it’s at the top of LA’s mind," Fowles said. "They’re going to come out and be very aggressive on the boards as well. We pretty much have to make our own breaks if we want to win this game.
"That’s what it’s going to come down to – both teams doing the little things that give them the separation."
Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve, who is no stranger to big games, recognizes that a game as big as this is not about who coaches the best...it's about which players want it more.
“We told them Game 5 is time for the players. Coaches get out of the way, this is about players making plays," Reeve said. "Recognizing your opportunities. Recognizing those moments that you can take advantage of your defender. At this point the plays are what they are, it’s about what you can do out of those plays."
“It’s the team that’s more persistent.”
Los Angeles’ aim needs to be staying hot on the defensive front and not letting the Lynx go on a major scoring run, something they failed to do in Game Four. At one point, the Lynx had gone on a 19-2 run.
The Sparks’ weapons under the hoop, center/forward Candace Parker and forward Nneka Ogwumike, will look to be a strong force on the boards, that will be difficult for Minnesota to defend against, even with Fowles on the inside.
Ogwumike, like anyone else who has been watching the series knows that whoever can win the battle on the boards, will most likely win.
“I think it’s all about just getting the boards," Ogwumike said. "We want to do it, but you really have to keep it in your mind constantly every possession for 40 minutes. For us it’s less X’s and O’s."
Not only is their a rivalry that has formed between the top two women’s basketball programs in the world, but Ogwumike and Fowles, the last two season's MVP's, have established their own clash as two of the best center’s in the country...something that hasn't been lost on Ogwumike.
“It speaks to the rivalry. We actually just saw a very interesting graphic on the WNBA’s Instagram – in the last 12 meetings we are tied 908-908, which I think is pretty spectacular. That speaks to the evolution of the game, the evolution of this competition that we have between each other."
At the end of the day, everyone from players and coaches alike couldn’t help but agree that this game is beyond simply plays and good basketball. It’s about heart, passion and the strength to battle through any challenge that comes into the arena. These teams know each other and are looking for some way to bring something to the table that will shock the other.
Parker noted how if they had any tricks left in the bag, they wouldn’t be letting anyone know about them. Maybe there is something we all have yet to see from these powerhouse squads, and from what has been said, both teams plan to leave it all out on the court come tip-off.
“With these two teams, it doesn’t come down to X’s and O’s anymore," said Los Angeles guard Alana Beard, 2017 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. "It’s about the intangibles and that is exactly what Game 5 is going to be – a game of intangibles."
Minnesota guard/forward Maya Moore also recognizes the special, yet competitive bond between the two teams, a bond that has made the WNBA season must-see action.
“It makes for a really compelling ending to a 2017 season," Moore said. "Both teams have been showing why they’re the best all year, and I’m just glad we’re able to really play and hopefully the game will go in a way where the best team wins."
Will the Sparks continue to fly to another title? Or will the Lynx let their roar be heard with a new banner to display? Don’t miss the captivating finale to a deja-vu finals series; tipoff is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. on ESPN.