Blown Call Helps Sparks Win WNBA Title By One Point
While the Dodgers have slipped to a 2-3 disadvantage in their playoff series against the Cubs, and while the Kings were on the brink of falling to 0-4 in their regular season record for the first time ever (this was prevented, however, with a win over the Dallas Stars), the Los Angeles Sparks showed everyone up by, you know, winning the WNBA championship on Thursday!
The finals against the Minnesota Lynx had turned out to be a nail-bitter. The Sparks had to take it all the way to game five (in a best-of-five series) to win it all. Candace Parker, who sank 28 points on Thursday, was named MVP of the playoffs. And it was Nneka Ogwumike who sank a clutch shot with 3.1 seconds left in play to push the Sparks to a 77-76 win. That's right, they won it all by one point. As reported by the L.A. Times, the locker room afterparty included a chant that emphasized the fact.
"What did we have to win by?" Ogwumike said during a toast.
"One point!" the team yelled.
"What did we have to win by?" Ogwumike asked again.
"One point!" the team shouted once more.
But hold on a second here. The Lynx are also obsessing over the "one point" margin, though for a vastly different reason. They claim that a Ogwumike basket, scored at the 1:14 mark in the fourth quarter, shouldn't have counted because it came after the shot clock went off. They're also agonizing over the fact that the refs didn't stop play to do some due diligence.
"Ogwumike's shot was not good," Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve said at a press conference. "It was reviewable at the time it was shot. The referees at that point didn't think anything was wrong. They didn't understand that it was at the end of the clock. They didn't hear the shot clock."
Replays do suggest that the ball was still in Ogwumike's hand when the shot clock ran down to zero. What's more, the WNBA have now stepped forward to say that, yeah, the shot shouldn't have counted. According to CBS Minnesota, Renee Brown, chief of basketball operations and player relations with the WNBA, said that "Ogwumike's shot with 1:14 remaining in regulation time should not have counted due to a shot-clock violation, and that the referees improperly failed to review the play under the instant replay rules."
What does it all mean? Nothing really. While it's not unheard of for a sports league to renounce a ref's decision, it's pretty unprecedented for them to nullify a championship win and call for a re-do. This kind of thing has happened before. In the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, American hockey player Brett Hull would score the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Dallas Stars the championship. It should not have counted, however, because his foot was in the goaltender's crease (that blue area around the net) when he shot the puck in the net. To deal with the fallout of this fiasco, the NHL basically canceled the rule altogether the next season.
Anyway, this is all to say, "Hey! That's sports!" and that the Sparks are the champions whether you like it or not. Let's relive the frantic final seconds of the game, and the displays of glory afterwards: