Credit: Contributed

Meshed between baseball’s playoffs; Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football; college football Saturday; the preseason start of the NBA; and all of the shenanigans surrounding the presidential election are the WNBA Finals, the last three to five games of women’s professional basketball this season.

The Minnesota Lynx, adorned in darkish royal blue Mayo Clinic-Verizon uniforms, led by the 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals contributed by their 6-foot-tall star, small forward Maya Moore, an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, denied the Los Angeles Sparks, up two games to the Lynx’s one, the opportunity to secure a win and a championship celebration on LA’s home floor Sunday night, prolonging both teams’ seasons. 

Whichever team wins it all, celebrates and pops bottles, they’ll do it tonight, Game 5, the fifth and deciding game of the series on Minnesota’s home court. A win would be the Sparks’ third chip. They’ve won two thus far, one in 2001 and one in 2002. A win tonight for the Lynx, the defending WNBA champions, would be their fourth. They first won it all in 2011, and then again in 2013, and they won their third last season in 2015.

Tonight’s do or die, all or nothing game is what makes this series special, competitive and interesting. 

“It’s been dramatic,” said Moore, who was drafted by the Lynx in 2011. “It’s been stressful, but it’s been great if you’re a fan of basketball.”

In all fairness to the players of the WNBA postseason, this year being the league’s 20th anniversary, these games should be completed by the end of September, when there’s less competition for the sports audience, so that these series and these players can become more of the conversation and attract more eyes.

The valiant play of both teams, on their floors and on the road throughout this series, is evidence of that.

The Sparks’ two-point road victory over the Lynx in Minnesota in Game 1, 78-76 led off the series. Minnesota’s 79-60 blowout of the Sparks in Game 2 tied the series one all. 

Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles matched the play in Minnesota. The Sparks’ blowout victory of the Lynx, 92-75, put them up two games to one in this best of five series, but losing Game 4 in a hard fought fourth one, 85-79, brings the series back to Minnesota for the deciding game, because of their better record during the regular season.

“I think you’re going to see the best in Game 5,” Moore stated.

The Sparks, dressed in their EquiTrust-Verizon gold and purple jerseys, resembling their brethren, the Los Angeles Lakers, who also play in this building, had overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 69 each at approximately the six-minute mark. Although the Sparks had several opportunities to go ahead, close out the game and win the final series, the Lynx fought off their forwards, Candice Parker and this year’s league MVP Nneka Ogwumike, and battled to stay ahead. They were aggressive as well as lucky. 

Game referees had missed a backcourt violation by the Lynx that would have returned the ball to LA with 15.5 seconds remaining on the game clock. The Sparks were down 79-77. WNBA officials admitted the error, but after a postgame review. Under the rules regarding instant replay, backcourt violations are not reviewable. Maybe this rule should also be taken into consideration, along with scheduling, at least in regards to postseason play.

We’ll never know if the outcome would have been different, but what’s apparent for the Lynx and Sparks is that this is it. Game 5 tonight could possibly resemble the fourth quarter play of Game 4. “It’s going to be a dog fight,” said Sparks point guard Kristi Tolliver, who dropped 15 on the Lynx during Sunday’s game. “It’s going to be up and down.”