NEW YORK (AP) — What an opening weekend for the WNBA.
The finals rematch between Los Angeles and Minnesota was decided at the buzzer, while Connecticut welcomed Las Vegas to the league with the most lopsided loss in opening day history.
The Lynx celebrated their fourth championship in seven years by receiving their rings before the game Sunday against the Sparks, adding fuel to the league’s top rivalry.
Los Angeles got the last laugh though with Chelsea Gray hitting an off-balance shot in the lane at the buzzer for the 77-76 win.
“Chelsea is the game-winner queen,” said Odyssey Sims, who led the Sparks with 21 points. “I don’t know how she squeezed up and flipped it in. I still don’t believe. I don’t even know how, but it was amazing.”
The win was even more remarkable since the Sparks were missing Candace Parker — out with a back injury.
“We love Candace. She’s a heck of a player, one of the best in the league, but I just kind of focus on the people that are here,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “That’s all we do.”
Connecticut opened its season with a 36-point victory over the relocated Aces, who moved from San Antonio to Las Vegas this past offseason. It was the second-biggest margin of victory for the Sun in franchise history, only trailing a 42-point rout of New York in 2012.
The Sun were actually down 14-4 early against the Aces before taking command.
“We have a long way to go and we know that,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We are missing a lot of players, four contributors from last year and we have to wait for them to get back. They are a very good basketball team and we knew we were going to be in a hornets nest and we were exposed, we lack shooters, shooting 26 percent again two games in a row is not going to cut it and we have to find a solution.”
The Aces are missing stars Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum, who are playing in the Turkish League finals.
Other tidbits from the opening weekend:
STRONG START: Phoenix beat both Dallas and Seattle to improve to 2-0 for the fifth time in franchise history. The previous two times the Mercury did that (2009 and 2014), they went on to win the WNBA championship. … Chicago also started 2-0 for the first time since 2014.
WELCOME BACK: Liz Cambage had a stellar opening weekend as Dallas went 1-1. The Australian star, who skipped the last few seasons while playing overseas, averaged 19.5 points and nine rebounds and three blocks.
“It was unfortunate to lose to Phoenix the other night,” Cambage said after Sunday’s 101-78 win over Atlanta. “We came back just wanting to win, needed to get this first win at home. I think we’ve really developed a lot since the last game.”
3-POINT BARRAGE: Diana Taurasi became the first WNBA player with 1,000 career 3-pointers and just the fourth in basketball history to do it in less than 400 games. She joined the NBA’s Damian Lillard, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Taurasi reached the milestone in the season-opening win over Dallas.
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