Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx
7:00 pm CDT
2013 Western Conference Finals: The Lynx sweep the Mercury 2-0.
2014 Western Conference Finals: The Mercury beat the Lynx 2-1.
2015 Western Conference Finals: The Lynx sweep the Mercury 2-0.
And now the annual battle between two of the WNBA’s heavyweights gets underway yet again tonight at the Xcel Energy Center, when the Lynx host the Mercury in a best-of-five semifinal under the league’s new playoff format.
Phoenix has risen from the ashes of a surprisingly poor regular season, just making the playoffs as the eighth seed and then winning two single elimination games on the road against the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty to reach the semis.
They are led, as always, by Diana Taurasi, who put 30 on the Liberty and plays with a fearlessness and abandon that has brought new dimensions to the game. Taurasi is surrounded by stars including Brittney Griner in the paint, and Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree at forward. It’s a formidable lineup, one so impressive that head coach Sandy Brondello is able to bring the dangerous DeWanna Bonner (their second leading scorer on the season) off the bench.
The Mercury’s main problems this season have been defense and rebounding. Despite having a towering defensive weapon at the rim in Griner, they were a mediocre defensive squad all year, and were significantly out-rebounded by opponents.
The Lynx took advantage, winning all three regular season match-ups with the Mercury, though all three games took place early in the season.
For the Lynx, as it often is, the key will be keeping the Mercury from going off from beyond the arc. With players like Taurasi, Bonner, and Taylor, the three can be a very potent weapon for the Mercury, and it’s an area the Lynx can’t afford to lose by too much, since they are not a big three-point shooting team.
The Lynx have been the best defensive squad in the WNBA this season, and will need their prowess on that end of the floor to limit an explosive Mercury.
The Lynx should be heavily favored in this series against a team that finished below .500 in the regular season. They have home-court advantage, and were consistently better all season. But they’ve been off for 11 days, which means there could be some rust, and despite their poor regular season, this Mercury squad is the same group that most experts tabbed as favorites before the year. They still have the talent that can hurt any team in the league.
So finally tonight the Lynx title defense gets underway in the post-season. They are looking for their 4th title in six years, and second in a row, which would be an amazing achievement. It’s fitting that it begins against the team they have had to go through so often during the past few years.
Playoffs tonight. I can’t wait. Talk about the game here.