LOS ANGELES -- Déjà vu, anyone? This entire WNBA season has seemed so much like last season, with the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks finishing 1-2 in the WNBA standings and advancing to the WNBA Finals.
Now, through four games, we've had the same results as last year: The Sparks winning the first and third games, and the Lynx winning the second and fourth. So we're headed back to a decisive Game 5 in Minnesota once again.
Just as they did last year at Staples Center, the Lynx prevented the Sparks from celebrating a WNBA title on their home floor by winning Game 4. This time, the score was 80-69.
Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen committed a hard foul -- ruled a flagrant 1 on review -- on Sparks guard Odyssey Sims early in the game, when Sims was on a breakaway to the basket. Sims was shaken up and laid on the floor for a while, although she did get up, make her free throws and stayed in the game, finishing with a team-high 18 points.
But the tone was set, and the Lynx powered their way to victory behind 22 points and 14 rebounds from Sylvia Fowles, 18 and 13 from Rebekkah Brunson, and 15 and eight from Maya Moore.
It was just the second time this season that the Sparks lost at home; the other was July 20 against Chicago. Nneka Ogwumike had 17 points for Los Angeles.
Last year, the Sparks lost Game 4 at Staples 85-79, but went on to win Game 5 at Target Center 77-76 for the championship.
How the game was won: The Sparks' defense was in control in Game 3, but it was the opposite in Game 4, with the Lynx dictating the pace and keeping Los Angeles from getting many of the shots the Sparks wanted. Los Angeles shot 40.6 percent.
Player of the game: Brunson was the primary defender on Candace Parker, who was held to 11 points on 3-of 8-shooting. And Brunson led the way at the foul line for the Lynx, hitting 10 of 13. As a team, Minnesota was 19 of 30 from the stripe, compared to 12 of 16 for Los Angeles.
X factor: Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. The Lynx controlled the boards Sunday more than they did in any of the previous three games of the Finals, with a 48-28 advantage. The Lynx won the board battle by one in Game 1 and by seven in Game 2; the Sparks won it by seven in Game 3.
Stat of the game: The Sparks' 69 points was their second-lowest total this season; they had 68 against Seattle on July 25 (they won that game, though) and also against the Lynx in Game 2 of the Finals on Sept. 26.
What's next: The teams meet in the winner-take-all Game 5 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Wednesday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).