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Lynx-Sky Preview: The Key Battle to Watch

In the playoff skirmish between Minnesota and Chicago, one matchup stands above the others

Chicago Sky v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

As winners of nine of their last ten games and owning the WNBA’s third-best record at 22-10, it would seem on paper that the Minnesota Lynx should be considered heavy favorites against the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky (16-16) during their second-round matchup on Sunday. However, the two teams aren’t as different as their record suggests.

No matter how you slice it, the Lynx and Sky are almost identical in their statistical profiles. Below is a comparison of how the two teams ranked league-wide during the regular season among commonly cited stats:

The two teams’ proximity in the rankings extends beyond these stats. If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: The Lynx and Sky are very much on equal footing.

The two teams split their season series 1-1, with the road team winning on both occasions. Minnesota claimed the most recent contest, 101-95, approximately one month ago. The Lynx overcame by winning the battle on the boards (33 versus 23) and at the line (28 points versus 16). They also got double-digit points from Crystal Dangerfield (16) and Aerial Powers (10) off the bench, while Chicago’s dynamic duo of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot torched them for 27 points; Candace Parker did not play due to an ankle injury.

The Sky won the first battle in mid-June by dominating the 3-point battle (36 points versus 15 points) and forcing the Lynx to commit uncharacteristically 20 turnovers. Napheesa Collier (27) and Fowles (14) were the only Minnesota players to reach double-figures in point scored, while Natalie Achonwa, Jessica Shepard, and, most importantly, Aerial Powers missed the game with injury. In contrast, every member of the Chicago roster played for at least five minutes, with six reaching double-digit point totals, led by Quigley’s 23 off the bench.

In a game replete with critical matchups to watch, perhaps none is more important than that between 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles and the Sky’s second-leading scorer in Parker.

Battle to Watch: Fowles versus Parker

Although both are future Hall of Famers and two of the better frontcourt athletes in WNBA history, they bring different skillsets to the table on both sides of the ball.

Fowles’ bread-and-butter is in the post. According to Synergy, she ranks in the 94th percentile (1.24 PPP) on the block offensively and is even better on D, ranking in the 97th percentile (0.53 PPP). She is also one of the best offensive rebounders in the league as she pulls down 2.1 per game and scores 1.45 PPP (88th percentile).

Parker, however, has more range and excels out of the pick-and-roll (1.15 PPP; 83rd percentile). She’s also a much stouter defender on the perimeter — particularly during spot-ups (0.61 PPP; 96th percentile) and in the pick-and-roll (0.62 PPP; 82nd percentile) — than she is down low (0.87 PPP; 63rd percentile).

Parker and Fowles, who went first and second overall, respectively, during the 2008 draft, are 14-year veterans with championship-level experience. Both are leaders in the locker room and act as calming presences for their teams. Neither will be overwhelmed by the moment.

While the two likely won’t go head-to-head much on Sunday afternoon — Parker will match up with Collier while Fowles will shadow Stefanie Dolson — the winner of the game may be determined by which of the two players has a more significant impact on the court.