Los Angeles Sparks Win Game 1 – 2016 WNBA Finals

The Sparks hit a shot at the buzzer to steal the show in a nationally-televised WNBA Finals game.

The Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx met on Sunday afternoon in a game that the latter hosted to kick off the 2016 WNBA Finals. In a close contest on ABC, the Sparks shocked the home crowd with a buzzer beater that gave them the first game of the series. The final score from Game 1 was 78-76, a result that gave Los Angeles a 1-0 series lead.

The game was competitive and close throughout. Late in the game, with 24.7 seconds remaining, the Sparks took possession on their own baseline tied at 76. The plan coming out of a timeout seemed clear: work the clock down before shooting so that the game would either end in regulation in LA’s favor or go to overtime.

With about four seconds remaining, LA’s Chelsea Gray drove to the bucket before dishing off to her right where Alana Beard stood open near the three-point line. As time expired, Beard put up the winning shot in front of her bench, leading to an immediate swarming.

Beard was an unlikely shooter in that situation, perhaps the reason that she was left fairly wide open. The Sparks, who used a short bench in the game, received double-digit offensive contributions from Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Kristi Tolliver, and Gray. Anyone of those players seemed like a more likely player to take a clutch shot. With the buzzer beater, Gray still only scored four points in the game however the last shot will certainly be a career highlight for her.

The series will remain in Minnesota for Tuesday’s Game 2. However, the Los Angeles Sparks are now in a position where they need only to win their home games in the series to claim the WNBA championship. That doesn’t mean that the Sparks will approach Game 2 as a throwaway game, however if they lose they will still return home with a chance to close out the series.

Maya Moore of the Lynx did not have a great game in the opener. She was the player that closed out on Beard as the Sparks’ player hit the winning jumper. Following the made shot, Moore could be seen with her face in her hands, disappointment that she will surely get passed before Game 2.

“That’s what’s made this team special all these seasons,” Moore said, “is our ability to bounce back and do it together.”

Game 2 of the series is on Tuesday and it will come from Minnesota again with an 8pm ET start.

 

Shane Lambert