Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

Sep 21 2011 7:46AM

Which team will win the Western Conference Finals between Minnesota and Phoenix?
Which team will win the Western Conference Finals between Minnesota and Phoenix?
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Game 1: Phoenix at Minnesota
Thu, Sept. 22, 9:00 ET, ESPN2
Game 2: Minnesota at Phoenix
Sun, Sept. 25, 5:00 ET, ESPN2
Game 3*: Phoenix at Minnesota
Tue, Sept. 27, TBD, TBD
* if necessary
If you are looking for fast-paced, high-scoring basketball, then you've come to the right place. The Western Conference Finals matchup between the Minnesota Lynx and the Phoenix Mercury features two of the three most prolific offenses in the WNBA this year. And a quick glance at their season series (see below) suggests the scorekeeper better be ready for some busy nights this week.

The top-seeded Lynx were the top team in the WNBA all season long, finishing with a league-best record of 27-7 as they cruised to the top seed in the West. However, the only team to beat the Lynx more than once during the regular season was the Mercury, as they picked up two wins in their five-game season series.

One thing that these two teams have in common is they each feature a deep and talented roster where a number of players can hurt you on any given night. If you shut down Diana Taurasi, here comes Penny Taylor, or Candice Dupree, or DeWanna Bonner for the Mercury. The same can be said for the Lynx. Healthy for the first time in years and with the addition of Rookie of the Year Maya Moore, head coach Cherly Reeve and point guard Lindsay Whalen have so many options to turn to on a nightly basis.

For Minnesota it starts with Seimone Augustus, who missed nearly all of 2009 and part of 2010 due to injury, but is back to full strength and back to setting nets on fire with her deadly jumpshot. She was the Lynx's most consistent offensive threat in the first round, averaging 21.7 points while shooting 51 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range against the Silver Stars. Meanwhile it was not until Game 3 that post players Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekkah Brunson had impressive performances.

Augustus' counterpart in Phoenix is Taurasi, the five-time scoring champion, and the catalyst for the Mercury with her shooting and playmaking abilities. However, in Phoenix's first round matchup against defending champion Seattle, Taurasi struggled at times with her shot (36 percent from the field, 25 percent from three) and her control (fouling out and getting a pair of technical fouls in the decisive Game 3).

But Taurasi, like Augustus, is not alone. Penny Taylor has had a remarkable year and has battled through back spasms and an ankle sprain to help the Mercury get to this point. With Taurasi out for the final 6:38 of Game 3 against the Storm, it was Taylor that took over to lead the Mercury to their improbable comeback. Yet it was Candice Dupree, still one of the most underrated players in the league, that won the series with her clutch putback with under two seconds to play.

In other words, keep an eye on everybody in this series and don't blink because you'll likely miss something,

Some fast facts about the Conference Finals matchup:
  • The average score of the season series between these teams was 95.4 to 91.6 in favor of the Lynx.
  • Taj McWilliams-Franklin, also known as Mama Taj, is the oldest player in the league at 40 years of age. She played for Cheryl Reeve (then an assistant coach) in 2008, when the Detroit Shock won their third WNBA title..
  • The Lynx not only boast a top three offense (averaging 81.5 points per game), they are also the second best defensive team in the league (allowing an average of 73.6). Their point differential is a league-best +7.88., while the Mercury rank fourth at +3.00.
  • By defeating the Silver Stars, the Lynx won their first playff series in franchise history. They are still in search of their first road playoff win. But as Coach Reeve has said throughout the playoffs, if the Lynx can win their home games, they win the champs.
  • Each team posted a season-high in single-game points against the other, with Phoenix racking up 112 points in a July 13 win and the Lynx responding with 106 in their next meeting.
  • Thanks to their incredible regular season, the Lynx have racked up a number of postseason awards, including Rookie of the Year to Maya Moore, Coach of the Year to Cheryl Reeve and Peak Performer for Assists to Lindsay Whalen

2011 Regular Season: Minnesota 3, Phoenix 2

Wednesday, July 13, 2011, Target Center, Minneapolis, MN: Mercury 112, Lynx 105 | Box Score | Highlights
Minnesota Leaders: Seimone Augustus (22 pts, 4 reb), Rebekkah Brunson (16 pts, 16 reb)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (27 pts, 8 ast), DeWanna Bonner (24 pts, 3 reb)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Lynx 106, Mercury 98 | Box Score | Highlights
Minnesota Leaders: Seimone Augustus (25 pts, 6 reb), Lindsay Whalen (16 pts, 8 ast)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (24 pts, 6 ast), Penny Taylor (23 pts, 5 reb)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011, Target Center, Minneapolis, MN: Lynx 90, Mercury 73 | Box Score | Highlights
Minnesota Leaders: Maya Moore (22 pts, 4 stl), Seimone Augustus (21 pts, 4 reb)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (20 pts, 2 ast), Temeka Johnson (10 pts, 4 ast)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 85, Lynx 80 | Box Score | Highlights
Minnesota Leaders: Maya Moore (28 pts, 5 stl), Seimone Augustus (26 pts, 4 reb)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (26 pts, 6 reb), Candice Dupree (12 pts, 11 reb)

Sunday, September 11, 2011, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Lynx 96, Mercury 90 | Box Score | Highlights
Minnesota Leaders: Maya Moore (15 pts, 2 reb), Jessica Adair (10 pts, 13 reb)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (19 pts, 5 reb), Marie Ferdinand-Harris (15 pts, 3 reb)

See how the teams match up position by position
Note: All statistics are from regular season.

Lindsay Whalen, G, Lynx
13.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.9 APG
Note: Led league in assists (5.9)
Temeka Johnson, G, Mercury
6.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 4.4 APG
Note: Averaged 9.5 ppg in the 2010 Playoffs
Seimone Augustus , G-F, Lynx
16.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: 8th in the league in scoring
Diana Taurasi, G, Mercury
21.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.6 APG
Note: Won her fourth regular-season scoring title in a row
Maya Moore, F, Lynx
13.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: Led all rookies in scoring and minutes and second in rebounds
Penny Taylor, F, Mercury
16.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.7 APG
Note: Had a career-high 10 ast. on 6/17
Rebekkah Brunson, F, Lynx
10.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 APG
Note: Pulled down 48 rebounds in four games vs. Silver Stars
Candace Dupree, F, Mercury
14.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 APG
Note: 8.2 rpg is the highest average of her career
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, C, Lynx
8.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG
Note: Second most prolific rebounder in WNBA history
Nakia Sanford, C, Mercury
4.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.4 APG
Note: Scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in Phx.'s only win over Sea. this year