There was so much for basketball fans to celebrate in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon. The Minnesota Lynx:
Fans from near and far came to the game to see the Lynx, including the core of the team that won last year, start a run for a fifth banner. The Lynx received their official championship rings in a pregame ceremony while the Sparks waited to take the court.
Terry McFarland cheered from a corner seat, just off the floor. She's a season ticket holder from St. Paul and was wearing her Lynx championship T-shirt for the occasion.
"I go to every single game and I absolutely love it. It's the best time," she said. "I love watching these women play basketball. I used to play basketball, and so I have very good memories of when I played, and I can say to myself, 'Oh yeah, I remember when I did that.' And it's a lot of fun to watch them."
Across the court, Faithe Mays was still savoring the last Lynx game she went to: the Game 5 victory over the Sparks in October to win the WNBA title.
"I traveled from Michigan for this. Yes, I was there when they won, so I got to be here to watch them get the rings," she said. "They've got some of the greatest players in the world — so you know, (you've) got to support good talent, great women. They're good role models."
There was a lot to see for Lynx fans. For many, it was their first look at the $145 million renovation of Target Center, which opened last fall for the Timberwolves' season. Last season, the Lynx played their regular-season games at Xcel Energy Center. Many fans pronounced their new seats "cushy" ahead of the game.
Some watched coach Cheryl Reeve and all-star guard Lindsay Whalen chatting at center court before the game — Whalen now a coach herself, named to head the women's basketball team at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, just last month.
And then they watched the Lynx and Sparks renew one of the most intense rivalries in pro sports. The league's 12 general managers last week picked the Sparks to win it all this year — although an Associated Press poll a day later picked the Lynx.
It was a hard-fought game, featuring no less than four off-setting technical fouls for a pair of confrontations in the fourth quarter and a nail-biting finish.
Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray hit a buzzer-beating shot to win the game, 77-76. The Sparks spoiled the Lynx's championship celebrations, despite having just nine healthy players, and playing without MVP Candace Parker, who was out with a back injury.
Lynx and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, though, was confident as he watched his team from courtside.
"I think we have the maturity, and then we have some young players that are going to add to it," he said. "We've got the coach, so there's no reason, unless we have injuries, that we can't be the champions again."
The Lynx will host the Dallas Wings on Wednesday. The Lynx will also host the WNBA All-Star Game on July 28 at Target Center.