Lynx, Sparks prepare to finish electric WNBA Finals

In this Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker, right, reaches in on Minnesota Lynx guard Anna Cruz during the second half in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals in Los Angeles. A hotly contested WNBA Finals gets what it deserves, a deciding Game 5. The Lynx are going for their fourth championship and the Sparks need one more win to break up the dynasty.

In this Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker, right, reaches in on Minnesota Lynx guard Anna Cruz during the second half in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals in Los Angeles. A hotly contested WNBA Finals gets what it deserves, a deciding Game 5. The Lynx are going for their fourth championship and the Sparks need one more win to break up the dynasty.

MINNEAPOLIS — Seimone Augustus was a 13-year-old girl when she watched the Houston Comets win the first WNBA championship in 1997.

The Comets would win the first four titles in the league, proving to basketball-loving girls across the country that there was a place for them to pursue their dreams. And Augustus couldn’t get enough of them.

Two decades later, Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx stand on the precipice of joining those trailblazing women. A victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals tonight would give the Lynx their fourth title, tying them with the Comets for most in league history.

“That’s just mind-boggling to me,” Augustus said. “We grew up watching the Houston Comets and those wonderful women the kind of set the precedent for what WNBA basketball is all about. They’ve motivated and inspired us. Now we could be the new Houston Comets of this era if we do what we need to do.

They know it will not be easy. Through the first four games of the series, the Sparks and Lynx have pushed each other as far as they can go, which is exactly what the league hoped would happen when it changed the playoff format to seed teams based on record and not geography. Los Angeles won Game 1 in Minnesota and Game 3 back home. The Lynx have responded to each loss with a victory of their own to find themselves right back where they were a year ago — needing a win in Game 5 at Target Center to bring home a title.

Last year the Lynx dispatched the Indiana Fever in front of 17,000 fans, then partied all night long at Prince’s house to celebrate title No. 3. Another raucous crowd is expected this time around in what would be the crowning achievement for the league’s model franchise, first back-to-back championships in the league since the Sparks repeated in 2002.

“You couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Lynx star Maya Moore, who scored 31 points in Game 4 to keep Minnesota alive. “It’s been definitely a dramatic series and one that will go down as one of the best, I think.”

The Lynx have been here five times in the last six years, but this has been their most difficult finals test. League MVP Nneka Oqwumike, Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver present a star-studded trio to rival Minnesota’s, and they have been every bit their equal through four games.

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