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Los Angeles Sparks win 2016 WNBA championship after a thrilling Game 5 victory

WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike hit the game-winning shot with two seconds to go to give the Sparks the upset victory over the Lynx.

The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 77-76, to win the 2016 WNBA championship behind a game-winning basket by league MVP Nneka Ogwumike off an offensive rebound with two seconds remaining. Ogwumike’s shot followed Lynx superstar Maya Moore’s go-ahead bucket and punctuated an incredible ending to one of the best Finals series in league history.

The championship is L.A.’s first since 2002, and the loss spoiled the Lynx’s chances at back-to-back titles.

This game, like the one before it, wasn’t without controversy though. Ogwumike made a jumper with just under a minute to go in the fourth after the shot clock sounded, but the officials ruled that the basket counted. By rule, the shot wasn’t reviewable because play continued. That turned out to change the game’s outcome.

Ogwumike finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but her teammate Candace Parker shouldered most of the offense, finishing with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

This game started how we all thought it would. With neither team going up more than six points in the first half, the lead changed 11 times.

To no one’s surprise, Moore ran the Lynx offense, nearing triple-double numbers with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists. She played 19 of the game’s opening 20 minutes, pressuring ball handlers to also add three steals. Picking up where she left off after her 31-point Game 4 showing, L.A. had no answer to her turnaround jumpers and one-dribble fades. She finished with 23 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds.

The Lynx capitalized on opportunities on the boards after Ogwumike picked up her third foul with 6:16 to go in the second quarter. They outrebounded L.A. 18-14, with Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson, and Moore combining for 16.

But the Sparks hung right there despite starting point guard Kristi Toliver also struggling with foul trouble. Parker connected on her first three-pointer of the series and finished the half with 10 points and six rebounds.

The opening minutes of the third quarter saw Fowles dislocate her finger and her coach, Cheryl Reeve, get called for a technical while running down the sidelines trying to get her team to foul to take her injured player off the court. Fowles had her finger put back in place and she returned to the game a few minutes later.

In her absence — and even before — Parker erupted for nine third-quarter points. Getting into the paint, Parker was able to mimic how she found success in Game 3. She had to find a way to step up after teammates Ogwumike and Toliver dug themselves further into foul trouble with four and five, respectively.

Sparks guard Chelsea Gray came alive in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 11 points. Driving to the rim and hitting mid-range shots, she became L.A.’s second scoring option with Ogwumike in foul trouble. She helped give the Sparks a small lead to work with deep in the fourth quarter.

Toliver hit a circus shot of a three-pointer and Parker continued to clean the boards to put Minnesota down eight points with less than three minutes to go. But Minnesota came roaring back to pull the game to within two with less than two minutes left.

Minnesota forward Seimone Augustus hit a jumper to tie the game, and on the following possession, a Brunson free throw put the Lynx up by one with 23.4 seconds to go. Parker and Moore traded baskets to tie to keep the Lynx up by one, but with three second left Ogwumike finished with the game-winning fade to win the game.

3 things we learned

Candace Parker found her range and went off

Parker had her ups and downs in this series, scoring just six in a Game 4 loss at home, but was spot on in Game 5. She scored nine points in the third quarter, used her size in the paint, and finally connected from deep twice. She put together a complete game with 28 points and 12 rebounds. It was a deserving ending for a superlative season marred by disrespect.

Maya Moore took over, but it wasn’t enough

The face of the WNBA has been here and done this before, and in a game with six of the best players in the league sharing the floor with a championship on the line, she looked smooth as can be. The former MVP scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished 11 assists, looking automatic with her shot, dribbling to wherever she wanted on the floor. But in the end, her effort — and go-ahead jumper -- wasn’t enough.

The Sparks’ rebound is now complete

The Sparks were one of the league’s flagship franchises, but it’s been a rough 14 years since their last title in 2002. Now, thanks to Parker, Ogwumike, and the rest of the roster, their journey back to the top is complete.