USA TODAY

Whalen's playing career over after Lynx first round exit

The Gopher women's head coach will now move on to her coaching duties full-time

August 22, 2018 - 6:52 am
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LOS ANGELES (AP/WCCO) — Chelsea Gray scored 26 points, helping the Los Angeles Sparks beat the defending champion Minnesota Lynx 75-68 on Tuesday night to advance to the second round of the WNBA playoffs in Hutchinson native Lindsay Whalen's final game as a player.

It was the fourth straight year Los Angeles and Minnesota have met in an elimination playoff game — with each team winning the past two WNBA championships. The Lynx hadn’t been eliminated in the first round since 2004. 

Whalen took time to reflect postgame.

"Being with my teammates and all the times in the training room and locker room and hanging around flights, the relationships you build -- those are what you really remember when you look back," she said. "Just getting to spend all that time together, just embracing every journey, every journey's different, every season's different, but just embracing the day-to-day."

Chelsea Gray and Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks expressed their gratitute to the WNBA's all-time leader in wins and assists.

"She's an ultimate competitior," Gray said. "Nneka's been in the league longer to really play against her and really feel that, but the times that I have played against her, you know, she's always talking. She's going to be great at Minnesota. She knows the game. Her resume speaks for itself, so to have somebody on your staff, coming off such a great playing career, she's able to relate to the players a little bit."

"I told her before the game, I was like, 'man, you're one of the greatest PGs I ever played against and my only regret is that I that I wouldn't be able to play with you, say if I make an Olympic team, or for whatever reason we're on the same team.' It's only an honor to play against her," Ogwumike said. 

After Minnesota guard Maya Moore missed two free throws with 1:56 remaining, Gray sank a long jumper to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 70-65. Minnesota turned it over on its next possession and Ogwumike hit two free throws.

Temi Fagbenle made an open corner 3-pointer to pull Minnesota to 72-68 with 52.4 seconds to go, but Moore was off on a contested 3-pointer on their next possession and Ogwumike sealed it at the free-throw line.

Sixth-seeded Los Angeles (20-15) will play at No. 3 seed Washington on Thursday.

Ogwumike added 19 points for Los Angeles and Riquna Williams scored 17. Candace Parker was held to two points.

Gray and Ogwumike combined to score 23 of Los Angeles’ 25 second-quarter points. The Sparks closed the half on a 15-3 run for a 40-37 lead.

Sylvia Fowles had 18 points and 12 rebounds for her 21st playoff double-double for seventh-seeded Minnesota (18-17). Moore added 14 points and Fagbenle scored a career-high 15 points. Four-time WNBA champion Lindsay Whalen, who announced her retirement earlier this season, scored nine points in her final game.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook sat courtside, as did Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo.