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Everything comes together at right time for WNBA champion Lynx

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Fowles: 'MVP is all for my teammates' (1:05)

Sylvia Fowles reacts to Minnesota defeating Indiana for their third WNBA title in five years. (1:05)

MINNEAPOLIS -- You might think a team that was the top seed in the Western Conference and had the second-best record in the WNBA couldn't talk about "adversity" without prompting some serious eye-rolling.

That would be wrong, because the Minnesota Lynx really did face some things that weren't just the equivalent of first-world problems for a franchise that's been one of the best in the league for the last five years.

"There were more opportunities than usual this season for us to crack," Lynx star Maya Moore said. "Or to get frustrated and move backwards. But we embraced the challenges and were patient through them."

The last of those challenges was the gritty Indiana Fever, who pushed Minnesota to a Game 5 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday at Target Center. But in front of a franchise-record crowd of 18,933 that even included Minnesota's own musical icon Prince, the Lynx knocked over the last barrier to take their third title in five years.

Playing its most dominant game of the series, Minnesota won 69-52, and then celebrated a championship that actually was far from certain at times this season. Such as when ...

Well, how about around July 21, when Lindsay Whalen was dealing with an eye injury that kept her out of the All-Star Game, Seimone Augustus was in the midst of missing a month after knee surgery, Sylvia Fowles was convinced she would not even play this season, and Renee Montgomery was on a Seattle-to-Minneapolis flight where she was so ill after salmonella poisoning that she barely left the bathroom.

Yet all of the Lynx were smiling Wednesday night. Because everything eventually really did come together for them.

Fowles found out on July 26 that her wish to be traded to the Lynx would come true after all. She had thought a few times previously in the season that a deal would be made to bring her over from Chicago. When things fell apart over the July 4 holiday, she thought that was it.

"At that point, I pretty much just gave up all hope and said I wasn't going to play this summer," Fowles said.

Instead, she appeared in her first game on July 29, and it was clear the 6-foot-6 center would be a huge help to the Lynx. But it still took some time to fully integrate her.

"We knew how badly Sylvia wanted to come in and help our team," Moore said. "But we had to go through a process of getting her acclimated to us, and us acclimated with what our team looked like with her."

"This season's been an emotional roller-coaster at times, not playing as well as we want to, and feeling bad about it. But when we win, it's sweet." Maya Moore

Moore had some struggles, too, although with her that is a relative term. She was still a strong candidate to repeat as league MVP (an honor that ended up going to Chicago's Elena Delle Donne). But Moore's shooting percentage was down, and there were times when she just didn't seem fully comfortable in the offensive flow.

"It's not going to be a 10- or 15-point win every game," Moore said of what she realized during this season. "There were stretches in some of our seasons where we were just that good, and we were beating teams by double digits pretty consistently.

"Then you come into a season like this where you still expect that, and it's not going to happen. That's unrealistic. So just continue to focus on the process."

Augustus came back in August, only to suffer a foot injury and miss even more time. And Whalen, dealing with severe pain in her ankle and Achilles tendon, had to sit out the end of the regular season, too.

The Lynx, who most picked as the league favorite at the beginning of the season, seemed much less of a sure bet once the playoffs started. New York, which had the best record in the 2015 and was the Eastern Conference's top seed, picked up momentum as a championship contender.

The Lynx had to go three games to beat Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs. They swept Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals, although the second game ended on a controversial call that sent Moore to the line for the winning free throw.

"I experienced a great deal of emotion when we made the finals," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. " I think because I have an appreciation of where these guys are, and how hard it was."

Despite the fact that Indiana was the No. 3 seed -- having defeated Chicago and New York to get to the WNBA Finals -- the Lynx were very wary of them. After all, it was the Fever who kept Minnesota from winning the 2012 WNBA Finals.

And when, just like in 2012, the Fever won the first game of this series on the Lynx's home court, it could have really rattled Minnesota. But the Lynx would win Game 2 at home and then, on Moore's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, take Game 3 in Indianapolis.

With Fowles in foul trouble much of Game 4, the Fever controlled the game and sent the series back for one more round between these two admittedly tired combatants.

"Both teams are exhausted," Indiana point guard Briann January said, "and you have to gut it out."

Wednesday, both teams showed guts, but one of them proved to be deeper and performed better. Fowles had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and was named Finals MVP. Augustus looked a lot like her old self with 16 points. Rebekkah Brunson, who played well in the first two rounds of the playoffs but struggled somewhat in the Finals, came up big in the last game with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Montgomery and Anna Cruz, Minnesota's reserve guards, were crucial players the entire series both offensively and defensively. The Lynx obtained both of them in trades this season; Cruz on draft day in April, and Montgomery in a deal in July that prompted that highly unpleasant flight she had to endure.

Montgomery and Cruz combined for 14 points and five assists on Wednesday, and helped keep the Fever to 35.7 percent shooting.

All of this made it irrelevant that Moore scored just five points on 1-of-8 shooting. The Lynx needed big scoring performances from Moore every other game of this series, but they won decisively without that Wednesday.

"If everybody believes they have a part of the success of the team, they're going to care," Moore said of the unity that she thinks made the Lynx champions again. "When you encourage people and acknowledge them for what they contribute, that's what it's about.

"If you win a championship and truly respect the person next to you, it makes it that much more meaningful. This season's been an emotional rollercoaster at times, not playing as well as we want to, and feeling bad about it. But when we win, it's sweet."

That was even more the case with the final victory, because it came at home, whereas both their previous championships (2011, '13) were won on the road. This one happened in front of some fans who are new to the Lynx, and others who were there for them even in the leanest of times.

Moore, who also won two NCAA championships at UConn, was thrilled to share the vibe with everyone at Target Center.

"It's an unbelievable memory," she said. "Everybody who came I can guarantee you will never forget it."