WNBA Western Conference Finals: Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury

USA TODAY Sports

The Lynx continue their playoff run tonight in the first game of the Western Conference Finals against the surprising Phoenix Mercury, led by All-WNBA performer and future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi.

Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx
Western Conference Finals Game One
8:00pm Central Time, ESPN2

The Minnesota Lynx enter the Western Conference Finals off a two game sweep of the out-manned Seattle Storm and riding a streak that has seen them win 10 of their last 11 games. They are led, as ever, by their four 2013 WNBA All-Stars, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Rebekkah Brunson.  Moore and Whalen were just named to the All-WNBA first team, while Augustus made the second team.

The Lynx won all five of their matchups with Phoenix this year, though they all took place in the first half of the season, and the Mercury are a much different team now. Maya Moore led the way in those contests, averaging 19 points a game against the Mercury.

For Phoenix, this was a tale of two seasons. With their record sitting at 10-11 and two-thirds of the way through the season, they fired head coach Corey Gaines on August 9th and replaced him with Russ Pennell.  They proceeded to finish the regular season on 9-4 run, which arguably sounds better then it is, as none of those wins were against teams that finished above .500.  Still, they were able to enter the playoffs with some momentum, and beat the favored Los Angeles Sparks two games to one, winning both games in Los Angeles, the last on a Britney Griner turnaround with four seconds left that proved to be the winner in 78-77 nail biter.

While Griner, the rookie and first overall draft pick, received unprecedented attention for a player entering the WNBA, her play this season was up and down. She showed flashes of potential dominance, and led the league in blocked shots, but also struggled to find her offense and battle stronger, more mature players underneath.

The Mercury are still led by 8 time All-WNBA player Diana Taurasi, who finished second in the league in both points and assists per game. Taurasi dominates games with the ball in her hands, penetrating to create for herself and others. She has incredible body and ball control and is able to generate good shots unlike any other player in the league. Taurasi led the Mercury in their series against the Sparks with 22.7 ppg and 7.3 apg.

This series features perhaps the two best women's basketball players in the world in Taurasi and Moore. The Lynx are deeper in top talent, and are a significant favorite to win this best of three series and advance to the Finals, but any team with Diana Taurasi on it cannot be counted out.

Watch. It's great basketball.

NOTES: The Eastern Conference Finals get underway at 6pm Central, with the Indiana Fever visiting the Atlanta Dream. Indiana, which finished the regular season 16-18 was a surprise winner over conference best Chicago in the first round, while the 17-17 Dream defeated Washington, also 17-17 in the regular season.  That game is also on ESPN2.

The Lynx will be well-represented at USA Basketball's fall camp, with Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus,and Monica Wright receiving invitations to be among the 33 participants.

Diana Taurasi's 8th appearance on the All-WNBA first team ties her with Lisa Leslie for the most career appearances on the team.

Nate over at Swish Appeal, the SBN WNBA blog, has a great article about the Lynx and how good they are and why. You should read it.

Enjoy the game.  Chat about it here.

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