Game 5 is a fitting end for a WNBA Finals full of good basketball

INDIANAPOLIS -- Six years have passed since the last Game 5 in a WNBA Finals. And it seems like both quite a while ago and not quite so distant to Indiana point guard Briann January.

"Since then, I've gained a lot of experience," said January, whose Indiana Fever lost that game 94-86 to Phoenix on Oct. 9, 2009. "That still burns me. I was a rookie, and they won Game 4 here [in Indianapolis] and then won in Phoenix. To end the season like that, it sits with you."

In Game 5 on Wednesday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) in Minneapolis, the Fever and the Minnesota Lynx will battle one last time this year. One team will celebrate a championship, and the other will be left, as January said, with a bad feeling that lingers.

But there's no question that what will remain for viewers of these WNBA Finals is a satisfaction in seeing two of the most accomplished franchises in the league display so much talent and play so hard over this series.

"We know each other so well at this point," Indiana guard Shenise Johnson said. "Both teams know each others' plays like the back of their hand. Heck, maybe better than we each know our own.

"It's going to come down to the little things: the 50-50 balls, the hustle plays, who's going to get on the floor, who's going to box out, who's going to take care of the ball down the stretch. It's been fun playing this series. It's been an honor. I'm super-appreciative of this entire journey this year. But at the same time, it's not done."

The league expanded from a best-of-three to a best-of-five series for the WNBA Finals in 2005, and the championship series has gone the distance three times since.

"Sometimes you can have all the schemes and sets in the world, but it comes down to players making plays. You've seen a lot of that in this series." Minnesota's Maya Moore

In 2006, the Detroit Shock won their second championship, beating Sacramento 80-75 in Game 5, which was held at Joe Louis Arena in the Motor City's downtown. (The Palace at Auburn Hills was otherwise engaged that day.) Deanna Nolan had 24 points on her way to being named WNBA Finals MVP, and Katie Smith completed a splendid series with 17.

The next year, the Shock were back in a five-game series, but this time they lost. Phoenix became the first WNBA team to celebrate a championship on the road, winning Game 5 at the Palace 108-92. Cappie Pondexter, voted the Finals MVP, had 26 points and 10 assists for Phoenix, while Penny Taylor scored 30.

As previously noted, the Mercury were also the winners of the 2009 WNBA Finals, a series that included an amazing Game 1 that Phoenix won 120-116 in overtime.

Since 2009, the league has had only one WNBA Finals that wasn't a sweep: in 2012, when the Fever beat the Lynx in four games. So from the standpoint of fans getting to see a lot of good basketball, these 2015 WNBA Finals already have been a big success.

"The series has been a fun one to watch," Minnesota's Maya Moore said. "Sometimes you can have all the schemes and sets in the world, but it comes down to players making plays. You've seen a lot of that in this series."

"We know each other so well at this point. Both teams know each other's plays like the back of their hand. Heck, maybe better than we each know our own." Indiana guard Shenise Johnson

Including, most dramatically, from Moore, whose buzzer-beater won Game 3 for Minnesota 80-77 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Lynx's previous two titles were both won at Atlanta, in 2011 and '13. So if nothing else, having a Game 5 at Target Center gives Minnesota the chance to celebrate a title in front of the home crowd if the Lynx can win.

"If I was to say where do I want to finish my season, it would be Target Center," Moore said. "That's going to be a great opportunity for us and our fans to really be who we've been all season.

"That's the beauty of it; we don't have to be anything more than who we are. We just need to be ourselves at home, and we have a really good chance if we do that."

The Lynx were 13-4 at home during the regular season. However, they lost Game 1 of this series there, so the Fever know it's possible to win on Minnesota's home floor.

One team will feel badly when it's all over. But going into the last game, the overwhelming feeling by both is pride.

"It's a great series for the WNBA," said Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who -- like January -- played in the 2009 Finals that went five games. "It's great for women's basketball. You can't deny the great competition on both sides."