The single elimination matchups are finally done. The Washington Mystics and the Phoenix Mercury both knocked off their first round opponents as well as the both teams that received the first round bye. Playoff experience and overall star power have gotten both teams this far. The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, however, create an entirely different obstacle. There isn’t the option to have one hot shooting night to advance this time around, and one does not easily beat the Sparks or Lynx three times out of five games.
#1 Minnesota Lynx vs #6 Washington Mystics
Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne are finally facing off in the playoffs for the very first time. Two MVP’s and two of the biggest names in the league going head-to-head. Oh, did I mention that the Lynx also have the front runner for MVP this season in Sylvia Fowles? Plus, Lindsay Whalen will be returning from a hand injury just in time for the beginning of the series.
There will be two matchup groups to watch in this series. Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus against Kristi Toliver will be dynamic in all senses of the word. Toliver is fresh off of a record-setting game with nine threes made in one game. Moore and Augustus really don’t need an introduction. They’ve consistently been huge in the clutch, and have teamed up to be quite the duo in the playoffs. The other group to watch will be Elena Delle Donne, Emma Meesseman, and Krystal Thomas against Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson. The Mystics front court has been dominant both on the boards and on the scoreboard, but can they contain Fowles? Fowles has shown that she can lock down the paint all on her own, so with Brunson behind her, it will be a struggle for Delle Donne and company.
Prediction: Lynx win the series in 4.
#2 Los Angeles Sparks vs #5 Phoenix Mercury
Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, and Candace Parker. We talked about star power, right? Ok, just wanted to make sure. Anyway, Phoenix is going to have their hands full with the defending champs. The Sparks are aiming to become the first back-to-back champions since, wait for it… Yeah, the Sparks in 2002. Parker got a taste of what it’s like to finally get over the hump and win a ring. Taurasi has been there, done that, multiple times.
So, this series comes down to Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, and the supporting casts. The battle in the paint is going to be the most important battle of this potential five-game war. Ogwumike averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds per game throughout the regular season while Griner is averaging 24 and 10 so far through the postseason. This kind of force in the paint on both sides of the ball makes for quite the interesting series.
This leaves us with the supporting casts of each team. While the Sparks have lost Kristi Toliver to the Mystics, they still have the Chelsea Gray, Odyssey Sims, and Alana Beard who have been huge on both ends of the floor during the entire year. On the other hand, Leilani Mitchell and Yvonne Turner have been x-factors for the Mercury through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The key here will be which team’s supporting cast can give that x-factor kind of performance when they need it the most.
Prediction: Sparks win in 5.