For the second year in a row, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are going to a Game 5 to decide the WNBA title.
Down 2-1 in the Finals, the Lynx went on the road for Game 4 Sunday and earned an 80-69 win behind 22 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks from Sylvia Fowles.
The Sparks won the 2016 title in five games, but Minnesota will look for a different result this time around with Game 5 at home Wednesday.
After a pair of quiet offensive games for Minnesota with 70 points or fewer, the squad appeared much more aggressive in this one.
Fowles was the star on both ends of the court, but the rest of the starters also stepped up, including Rebekkah Brunson. The forward tallied 18 points, 13 rebounds and two steals while making numerous hustle plays to help keep the team ahead. After scoring just 20 points in the first three games, this made a significant difference.
Add in 15 points from Maya Moore, and it became an easy win for the Lynx.
They looked confident from the start of the game, building up a 21-16 lead in the first quarter that grew to a 16-point advantage in the second quarter.
Although the team was knocking down shots, it was hustle plays like this that made a difference:
This effort wasn't lost on Canis Hoopus:
Minnesota held a 26-14 rebounding advantage at halftime, finishing up 48-28 for the game.
On the other side, the Sparks missed their first eight three-pointers and only shot 36.7 percent from the floor in the first half, resulting in the 43-31 deficit at intermission.
Every time the team tried to get into a groove offensively, the Lynx defense was there to shut it down, including this block by Fowles:
The rout continued in the third with the center picking up her play on the offensive end. Fowles scored eight points in the third quarter, building up a 17-point lead behind plays like this:
Of course, the Sparks were obviously not going to go away without a fight. Down 61-44 in the fourth quarter, Odyssey Sims helped fuel a 10-2 run to get the home team back in the game.
Sims finished the game 4-of-7 from three-point range while the rest of the team managed to go just 1-of-15.
Los Angeles kept it close, though, and the team was within eight points with less than a minute remaining. The lead appeared to be in danger after two missed free throws from Seimone Augustus, but Fowles came through again with an offensive rebound and bucket to put the nail in the coffin.
Candace Parker was held to just 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting in the loss, while the Sparks bench produced just seven points all game.
It will now all come down to Wednesday in the all-important Game 5, and there is already plenty of excitement:
One of these teams will win the fourth championship in franchise history, tying them with the Houston Comets for the most all time. The other will have a long offseason to think about the disappointment.
Minnesota will host the anticipated battle at Williams Arena at 8 p.m. ET.