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Sparks slip past Lynx to win WNBA title

MINNEAPOLIS - Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks finally have their elusive WNBA championship. Parker scored 28 points, including a go-ahead basket with 19.7 seconds remaining, as the Sparks won their first WNBA title since 2002. Their 77-...

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Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) celebrates winning the WNBA Championship against the Minnesota Lynx in game five of the WNBA Finals. at Target Center. The Los Angeles Sparks beat the Minnesota Lynx 77-76. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks finally have their elusive WNBA championship.

Parker scored 28 points, including a go-ahead basket with 19.7 seconds remaining, as the Sparks won their first WNBA title since 2002. Their 77-76 win over Minnesota in the decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals dethroned the defending champion Lynx, who fell just short of their fourth championship in six years.

Nneka Ogwumike, this year's WNBA MVP, hit a close-range shot with 3.1 seconds remaining to put the Sparks back in front. A desperation heave by Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen fell short at the buzzer.

Parker added 12 rebounds as she won her first WNBA championship. She outdueled Lynx star Maya Moore, who had 23 points -- including a big basket late -- to pace Minnesota's offense.

Ogwumike finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

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Thursday's game was back and forth all night, and that included the final minute. The Sparks led by as many as seven points late in the fourth, but Minnesota came roaring back to tie it at 73 with 55.9 seconds remaining.

Minnesota took a brief one-point lead with 23.4 seconds to play, but Parker scored at the other end to make it a 75-74 game. Moore hit a 16-foot shot with 15 seconds left to give the Lynx another lead before Ogwumike responded at the other tend.

The Sparks ultimately celebrated their third WNBA title on the Target Center court.

Sparks guard Chelsea Gray didn't score until late in the third quarter. When she did, the points came in a flurry. Gray scored 11 in a row for Los Angeles to help the Sparks pull to a 60-59 lead early in the fourth.

Ogwumike, the reigning MVP, scored on a put-back layup to put the Sparks up by three -- their biggest lead to that point. Parker made it a five-point lead at 64-59 before the Lynx were able to respond.

The Lynx went cold from the floor down the stretch and failed to make several key stops on defense. A 3-pointer by Kristi Toliver as the shot clock expired put the Sparks up by six, and Parker grabbed an offensive board and scored for a 71-63 lead with 2:58 remaining.

That put a sizeable dent in the noise from the home crowd, which had been raucous all night.

Seimone Augustus scored 17 points for Minnesota, which got 10 points apiece from Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen.

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Moore led the way for Minnesota in the first half, scoring 12 of the Lynx's 34 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The former WNBA MVP added five rebounds and five assists in the half. Augustus chipped in eight points for Minnesota.

Parker had a team-high 10 points at the half for the Sparks, along with six rebounds. Ogwumike had just four points and picked up her third foul with 6:16 to play before halftime.

Minnesota's six-point halftime lead was the biggest advantage for either side before halftime. The Sparks never led by more than two points, which came on the first basket of the game by Essence Carson.

Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half. Minnesota, which settled for plenty of mid-range jumpers, shot 47 percent through two quarters. The Sparks were even worse from the floor, converting just 34 percent of their field goals.

Target Center was packed to the rafters Thursday for Game 5. While the majority of the upper deck was closed for Games 1 and 2, it was open Thursday as fans filled the downtown Minneapolis venue. Each fan in attendance was also given a green shirt, with the hashtag #RoarFor4 -- a slogan the team used as it hoped to win its fourth WNBA title.

NOTES: Thursday marked the second year in a row in which Game 5 of the WNBA Finals was played at Target Center. The Lynx beat the Indiana Fever in the final game of last year's series to win their third WNBA title -- and first at home. ... Sparks F Nneka Ogwumike entered Thursday's game averaging 18.6 points per game this postseason, tops among all Sparks players. ... Several celebrities were spotted at Target Center for Game 5. Former Lakers great Magic Johnson, a part owner of the Sparks, sat courtside. So did Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and guard Ricky Rubio, while reigning Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns watched the game from a suite, wearing a Maya Moore jersey.

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By Tyler Mason, The Sports Xchange

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