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Painful experience is Minnesota’s best teacher — especially in WNBA Finals

An experienced Minnesota claims revenge over Los Angeles, winning the WNBA Championship title in Game 5 85-76.

WNBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- Cats have nine lives.

The Minnesota Lynx?

They only needed three games of life to clinch their fourth championship in seven years.

Pride and instincts, honed in over many years of championship lore, lit the fire in Minnesota for the winner-take-all Game 5 against their most dangerous rival: the Los Angeles Sparks.

That initial flame, turned into a smothering blaze, as the Lynx stayed scorching hot all the way through the fourth quarter. However, when Minnesota’s fire started to wither, Maya Moore doused the Sparks’ late fire, with a cold-blooded jumper with 26 seconds left, thus extinguishing the life of Los Angeles as champions.

It was all in dramatic fashion, a terrific feat after last year’s bitter loss, as this year Minnesota came out on top 85-76.

Deja vu, anyone?

The Lynx gained everything they needed after last year’s let down.

They brought their rightful title back to the Twin Cities.

They clawed their way back up to where they belonged, as the leading team in the league all season.

They also placed themselves in rare air — and placed themselves in the conversation as the greatest dynasty in WNBA history.

So how did the Lynx do all of that? Simple: this year’s MVP Sylvia Fowles exercised her MVP stature on the court in Game 5, winning MVP of the Finals as well. Her along with her superstar sidekick, Maya Moore, were just too much for Los Angeles to handle.

“I think it'll be hard to find another group that's, like I said, as talented, as deep, but as selfless as this group,” explained Moore.

“I think that's the first time in a while to get a sweep of the regular season and The Finals,” said Minnesota’s Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. “That was really important to us. We didn't want the regular season without The Finals because that means we would have lost. We wanted to make sure that we were in position to have the regular season as well as The Finals.”

It was clear Fowles and Moore wouldn’t leave this year’s court without a trophy in hand. As veterans, they know this game, they’ve been here before. There was no other option. However, like the fiery, feisty bunch they were, it was something they had to tear out of the Sparks’ clenching fingertips. Candace Parker would eventually let go, but not without the blood, sweat and tears they put in to defend their title.

“It was exciting,” mourned Parker. “That's all I've got. I think it was a good series.”

The champions didn’t win in the graceful, blowout fashion like the Golden State Warriors. No - a victory was awarded to the team that outlasted the clock with the most power, the most grit, and the most will to fight.

Tonight, that showed in the eyes of Minnesota’s starting five, their bench, all the way to their fans in the nosebleeds. A win went to a group of athletes, who know this situation better than anyone.

“I knew it was going to be special for us,” said Lindsay Whalen. “ I didn't exactly know how it was going to turn out. I just kind of felt like -- I felt good about it. I felt good about our chances being in this building, because I know what -- I know I've been a part of some special games here and some special runs.”

In this evening’s deciding period, it was anybody’s game. No play’s earlier in the night mattered, it was all forgotten. Los Angeles fought until the very end with champion’s valor, through the last minute, sparking a 9-0 run over the Lynx. But it was fool’s gold, as Moore sealed the deal with her patented golden touch from the mid-range.

“Ooh, I think this group more than anything just -- we stuck it together,” said Whalen. “We stuck throughout thick and thin all season, and this game, thick and thin. There were some runs. They cut it obviously to three there with a couple of our turnovers at the end, but we didn't panic.”

The passion of a wise, experienced Minnesota roster, that can play through a tough fourth quarter proved everything Cheryl Reeve has known as their general: They’re a force to be reckoned with, and these Lynx aren’t going anywhere.

“I'm just over the top excited and happy of how we did it, and just the way we did it,” said Moore. “No questions, it was just clear, that we were the best team this year.”

“They're so special,” explained Reeve. “I just can't even impart to you how special this group is, and I hope that you all continue to kind of bestow your adulation upon them, because this is incredible times in Minnesota sports history and obviously in WNBA history.”