WNBA Finals features matchup of best teams, 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 Western Conference teams will meet in the WNBA Finals. A year ago these two powerhouses would have played in the conference finals with the winner a huge favorite to win the championship. The Western Conference champion has won the league's title in six of the last seven years.
A Minnesota series win would earn the Lynx four of the last six championships, including two straight. They'd be the first repeat champion since Los Angeles (2001-02). A win by the Sparks would be their first title since then and the first for star Candace Parker.
Here are some things to look for in the WNBA Finals that begin Sunday in Minnesota:
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. Parker, who was left off the U.S. Olympic team, had another great season and is in the finals for the first time.
On the other side, Minnesota has an Olympic quartet of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus. The group helped lead the U.S. to a sixth consecutive gold medal and has a chance at another WNBA 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 (1997-2000), but never made it back. 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.''