WNBA Finals preview: Lynx vs. Sparks
All season long the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have been the best two teams in the WNBA.
Thanks to the new playoff format, the pair of Western Conference teams will meet in the WNBA Finals. Game 1 is Sunday.
A year ago these two powerhouses would have played in the conference finals with the winner being a huge favorite to go on and win the championship. The Western Conference champion has won the league's title in six of the last seven years.
"It's going to be a great matchup," Minnesota forward Maya Moore said. "I think the Sparks and the Lynx have shown that we're the best two teams in the league. There have been some really fun games to play in and to watch during the regular season. I think you're going to see the best of the best at their best for a good series."
Minnesota is trying to win its second straight title and fourth in the last six year. The Lynx would be the first repeat champion since Los Angeles did it in 2001 and 2002. A win by the Sparks would be their first title since then and the first for Candace Parker.
"Yeah, it has hit me. I think I've learned to appreciate it and absorb the moment and to not take it for granted," Parker said. "That's the biggest thing, just realizing that it is an opportunity and while you're here focused on business, you can still understand that you're here and you've worked really hard to get here."
Here are some things to look for in the WNBA Finals:
STAR POWER: Each team has a plethora of talent. Los Angeles is led by league MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Parker. Ogwumike had an incredible season, shooting a league-best 66.5 percent from the field, the second highest mark ever. She averaged a career-best 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds to help. Parker had another great year and is in the finals for the first time in her career.
On the other side, Minnesota has an Olympic quartet of Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus. The group helped lead the U.S. to a sixth consecutive gold medal and now has a chance to win another title.
Both Parker and Moore have excelled when playing each other in the postseason. In five games, four won by Minnesota, Moore averaged 24 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Parker had 25.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists.
GOING FOR FOUR: A championship would give Minnesota four, matching the Lynx with Houston for the most titles all-time in league history. The Comets won the first four championships in league history, but never made it back after 2000. The franchise folded after the 2008 season.
TIP-INS: The road team won all three games during the regular season. ... Minnesota's coach Cheryl Reeve won the league's coach of the year award. Los Angeles coach Brian Agler was the AP coach of the year. ... Sylvia Fowles was the consensus defensive player of the year and Jantel Lavender the sixth woman winner.
20 AND COUNTING: The league's 20th season has been stellar with all the metrics trending in the right direction. Attendance was up nearly 5 percent. So were merchandise sales, digital clicks and social media connection.
QUOTABLE: "We're kind of meeting our match, if you will," 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."