Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (2) Los Angeles Sparks

Oct 3 2012 8:48PM

By: Aman Ali, WNBA.com


The Lynx vs. Sparks matchup is likely to see a lot of action on the glass. Which team grabs the most rebounds could be the deciding factor in winning this series.
NBAE via Getty Images



Which team will win the Western Conference Finals between Minnesota and Los Angeles?
Which team will win the Western Conference Finals between Minnesota and Los Angeles?
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Game 1: Los Angeles at Minnesota
Thu., Oct. 4, 8 pm ET, ESPN2
Game 2: Minnesota at Los Angeles
Sun., Oct. 7, 3:30 pm ET, ABC
Game 3*: Los Angeles at Minnesota
Wed., Oct. 10, 8 pm ET, ESPN2
* if necessary
The Sparks put the kibbosh on the San Antonio Silver Stars' Seabiscuit ride of a season in the first round of the playoffs. The Lynx, on the other hand, narrowly escaped elimination in the first round despite a supremely dominant regular season.

This matchup could arguably be more exciting than the WNBA Finals itself with rosters jam-packed with some of the league's top stars. The triple-threat clash of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver vs. Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen is just about as big as matchups get. But this might be a series that is decided by who dominates the boards as Parker and Rebekkah Brunson are two of the top rebounders in the league. Both teams are worthy of winning it all this year and expect them both to play like it come gametime.

Homecourt advantage is going to mean the world to both teams, as both the Lynx and Sparks have only lost one game at home this season. Every little edge is going to make a huge impact in this series, so the more foam fingers and rowdy chants each home crowd can pack into their arenas, the better off their team will be in trying to win this series.

The Sparks had bursts of momentum throughout the season that were thwarted by head-scratching slumps. But their inconsistencies were washed away in the conference semifinals as they swept the Silver Stars in two games where the Sparks maintained the upper-hand throughout. Parker is leading all players in scoring in the post season with a scary average of 28.5 points a game. It's also worth mentioning her teammate, Toliver, is second at 26 points per game, making the duo hard to stop once the ball touches their hands.

The Minnesota Lynx meanwhile are the league's defending champions and play like that just about every time they step on the court. It goes without saying how stellar the trio of Augustus, Moore and Whalen are, but making a difference for the team in the postseason this year has been Brunson. She's the top rebounder in the playoffs this season averaging 13 rebounds per game -- four more than Parker -- and the team has relied on her heavily to carry them through the playoffs. Whalen has traditionally been a sage on the court bringing all the team's pieces together with her assists, but she injured her wrist in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals and how that heals will be a big subplot to this series. It remains to be seen how serious her injury is -- she wasn't even using her injured hand when she was playing in the last game against the Storm -- but it's probably safe to assume her minutes will at least be limited in the series.

But both teams are going to need a little bit of luck in order to win this thing. The Sparks and Lynx love to dominate offensively and need to pounce on the other team's weaknesses in order to win this round and head to the WNBA Finals. More importantly, nobody on either roster can afford even the most minute of slip-ups, as it could very well be what lets the other team win. Toliver is going to have to continue to play at a high level to keep trigger-happy Seimone Augustus at bay. And it's hard to predict how well she will play because even though she's gone on scoring binges this season, she has periodically followed them up with nights of futility. The same goes for Parker. If she doesn't register a double double of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, expect the Lynx to have the edge.

On the Lynx side, Brunson is dominating the boards and the Lynx are going to need to hold on to the ball every chance they get to prevent the Sparks from racking up easy transition baskets. But as good as Brunson is, she's the only player that seems to make a substantial impact for the Lynx right now on the boards. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a solid rebounder despite her age, but she hasn't proven to be consistent. Even though Brunson was stellar crashing the boards against the Storm, the Storm actually outrebounded the Lynx. That should cause even more concern for the Lynx because even if Brunson can outrebound Candace Parker (a daunting task in and of itself), the Sparks still have Ogwumike who is pretty aggressive in the paint herself.

Given the fact that both teams have each won two games against each other in the regular season and are both playing superb in the playoffs, it's extremely hard to predict a winner in this matchup as both teams make strong cases for deserving a shot at the WNBA Finals. The only prediction that seems feasible given this explosive showdown is that neither team is likely to get swept.

Some fast facts about the second-round matchup:

-- Minnesota is the highest scoring team this season (86 ppg) while Los Angeles is the second (84 ppg)

-- Minnesota has been better at shooting field goals this season but not by much compared to Los Angeles (.473 percent to .458)

-- Los Angeles is the highest scoring team in the playoffs this season (97 ppg) while Minnesota comes in at fourth (76.7 ppg)

-- Los Angeles has the statistical edge over Minnesota in blocks (5.3 bpg compared to 4.7 bpg) and steals (8.9 spg to 7.6 spg)





2012 Regular Season: Minnesota 2, Los Angeles 2

Thursday, May 24, Target Center, Minneapolis, MN: Sparks 84, Lynx 92 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Candace Parker (23 pts., 6 reb.), Nneka Ogwumike (20 pts., 9 reb.)
Minnesota Leaders:Seimone Augustus (25 pts., 4 reb.), Rebekkah Brunson (17 pts., 7 reb.)

Thursday, July 5, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Sparks 96, Lynx 90 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Candace Parker (28 pts., 13 reb.), Kristi Toliver (5 pts., 6 asts.)
Minnesota Leaders:Seimone Augustus (18 pts., 3 asts.), Rebekkah Brunson (11 pts., 9 reb.)

Tuesday, September 4, Target Center, Minneapolis, MN: Sparks 77, Lynx 88 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Alana Beard (17 pts., 4 asts.), Nneka Ogwumike (20 pts., 9 reb.)
Minnesota Leaders:Maya Moore (23 pts., 7 stls.), Seimone Augustus (23 pts., 4 asts.)

Thursday, September 20, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Sparks 92, Lynx 76 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Candace Parker (22 pts., 11 reb.), Nneka Ogwumike (22 pts., 11 reb.)
Minnesota Leaders:Monica Wright (19 pts., 4 reb.), Devereaux Peters (17 pts., 13 reb.)



See how the teams match up position by position

Lindsay Whalen, G, Lynx
11.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.4 APG
Kristi Toliver, G, Sparks
17.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.9 APG
Seimone Augustus , G, Lynx
16.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.5 APG
Alana Beard , G, Sparks
11.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.3 APG
Maya Moore, F, Lynx
16.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.6 APG
DeLisha Milton-Jones, F, Sparks
10.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.8 APG
Rebekkah Brunson, F, Lynx
11.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 APG
Nneka Ogwumike, F, Sparks
14.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, C, Lynx
8.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.5 APG
Candace Parker, F, Sparks
17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.3 APG