In lieu of the the new format of the WNBA playoffs, it might be the first time in a while that we’re seeing the top two statistical teams in the league go for all the marbles.
“We’re kind of meeting our match, if you will,” Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “How we get things done is a little different. But both teams can score, both can defend. It’s going to be a fight.”
The WNBA’s 20th anniversary season comes to an end with a Finals matchup featuring star power, intriguing story lines and two coaches with a lot of respect for each other’s ability to strategize and prepare their teams.
It’s the matchup that everyone recognized back in June was going to be the WNBA’s most competitive rivalry this season. The Lynx finished 28-6, and the Sparks 26-8, and both got byes into the semifinals under the new playoff format.
The Lynx then swept Phoenix, and the Sparks beat Chicago 3-1. They’ll start their best-of-five WNBA Finals series Sunday in Minneapolis (ABC, 3 p.m. ET). The Lynx hope to tie the former Houston Comets’ record of four titles, and the Sparks will try to win their first championship since back-to-back titles in 2001-02.
The Lynx may have the experience and more firepower with a lineup featuring with four Olympians in the roster. Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and Lindsay Whalen came back from Rio with gold medals around their necks and picked up where they left off in leading Minnesota to its fourth Finals trip in five seasons.
The Sparks, however, has the league MVP Nneka Ogwumike, WNBA sixth woman of the year Jantel Lavender, and two-time MVP Candace Parker. Parker’s non-inclusion to the Olympics team could be a source of strong motivation for her, who knows?
One member of the Sparks who has WNBA championship experience is coach Brian Agler, who led Seattle to the 2010 title. He also guided Columbus to the only two ABL championships, in 1997 and ’98.
The Sparks aren’t just happy to have made the WNBA Finals, though. They know they can compete with Minnesota. The Sparks won one of their three games in the regular season against the Lynx: 94-76 on June 24 at Minnesota. And their two losses in Los Angeles — June 21 and Sept. 6 — were both by just three points.