The final game of the 2018 WNBA regular season was made extra bittersweet as Lindsay Whalen played what will possibly be her last game at Target Center. The entire night was a celebration of Minnesota’s favorite point guard. Her teammates and coaching staff donned commemorative warm up shirts featuring her name and number. Mystics coach Mike Thibault wore a University of Minnesota tie. The crowd bulged past the typical lower bowl sellout and thousands of fans payed their respects to Whalen (A totally, definitely legit attendance number of 13,013 was given by the team).
All of this in the name of what Seimone Augustus called “Whay Day.”
Whalen did not disappoint, and consistently made plays that brought Target Center to life. She had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds all while playing her second highest minute total of the season. It was fitting that one of her better games of the year would come on this night.
Confidence Baby, Confidence
The Lynx needed this win. Having lost their last three at home and six of their last eight overall, Minnesota now has a little momentum to build from heading into the playoffs. Sylvia Fowles played a masterful game in the paint. She scored 26 points on 12 shots and pulled down 14 rebounds. Unfortunately it came in 36 minutes of action 48 hours before a road playoff game.
This contest had no implications on the WNBA playoff picture. Minnesota entered the game already locked into the 7th seed and Washington’s oppournity to move up to the two seed vanquished at halftime as Atlanta clinched the runner up spot in their game vs Las Vegas. Thibault rested almost his entire team as nobody played more than 25 minutes. Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver barely played at all in the second half.
Nevertheless, Minnesota will take any sort of win at this point. Before the game Cheryl Reeve said her team is “chasing a feeling” when describing the importance of the game. The Lynx got that feeling and more on Whay Day.
The Lynx will open the first round of the playoffs in Los Angeles. For the first time since the playoff format changed in 2016 Minnesota will play a single-elimination playoff game. Despite only finishing one game better than the Lynx in the league standings, the Sparks have been the superior team all season. Los Angeles won three of the four regular season games against Minnesota.
The status of Rebekkah Brunson is paramount. Almost no player in the league is better equipped to effectively defend the all-world talent of Candace Parker. Minnesota has missed Brunson greatly in the last six games she has sat out with a broken nose and concussion. Her status in Tuesday’s game will be determined by her ability to get clearance from the league’s concussion protocol.
Without Brunson, Minnesota will need to play a near-perfect game in order to defeat the Sparks in Los Angeles. Maya Moore can not allow Alana Beard to get the best of her. Cecilia Zandalasini will have to hit shots like she did on Sunday night. Tanisha Wright will likely return to the starting lineup and be tasked with limiting Chelsea Gray and giving the Lynx 30 minutes of solid point guard play.
Sparks vs Lynx has been the league’s premier rivalry for the last few years. It is intense and dramatic when these teams face off. The last two WNBA Finals are classics, each featuring a thrilling, winner-take-all game five. The Sparks won in 2016 at Target Center and the Lynx got their revenge last season.
The stakes are a little different this time around, but we’ve got a rubber match. Sparks vs Lynx vol 3 is happening on Tuesday.
-Fowles set the WNBA’s single season record for total rebounds with 404 and rebounds per game with 11.88. Dang Sylvia.
-Zandalasini had her best game in a long time. She was really active on defense and shot the ball well (5-10 FG for 12 pts)
-Minnesota’s 18-16 regular season record its worst since 2010.
The 2018 WNBA playoffs begin Tuesday! Minnesota will have to win at Staples Center to keep their season alive. Tip off is at 9:30pm CT. You can watch on ESPN2 or listen on BOB 106 FM.