The Minnesota Lynx begin their quest for back-to-back WNBA titles and a fourth-straight appearance in the WNBA Finals on Thursday, Aug. 21 when they host Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Stars at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Lynx won the season series with the Stars, 4-1, which could indicate a quick series. The Stars, however, responded with their season on the line in the last week of the regular season, closing out with three straight wins, including a key victory over Minnesota on Friday night to clinch a playoff berth.
The expectations are squarely on the Lynx, while the Stars are essentially playing with house money and the motivation to extend Becky Hammons remarkable career just a little while longer before she joins the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach.
The Tale of the Tape
The Players to Watch
Minnesota: The wing combo of Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus gives the Lynx an incredible 1-2 punch on the offensive end. They are the top scoring duo in the league this year with Moore (23.9) leading the league and Augustus (16.5) ranked seventh. The Lynx ranked second in the league with an average of 81.6 points per game. Nearly half of that total (40.4) came from Moore and Augustus.
San Antonio: While the Lynx are full of household names, the Stars are led by a pair of young guns in the starting lineup -- Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride -- and a veteran Jia Perkins -- off the bench. Robinson leads the Stars and is third in the entire WNBA in assists (5.3) and is San Antonios second-leading scorer (12.9), just behind McBride, the rookie wing from Notre Dame who has averaged 13.0 in her first WNBA season. Meanwhile, Perkins is a legitimate candidate for Sixth Woman of the Year with her 12.5 points off the bench.
The Stat to Know
23.9 Maya Moore won her first WNBA scoring title by averaging just under 24 points per game. Moore and Tulsas Skylar Diggins (20.1) are the only two players in the WNBA to average at least 20 points this season.
Moore has steadily become the focal point of the Lynx offense since her arrival in 2011. As the top pick in the draft, she had the unique situation of coming to a team that was full of talented players and ready to make a title run. In her rookie season, she averaged 13.2 points per game, the third highest on the team behind Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.
Her sophomore campaign (16.4) saw her scoring rise above Whalen and nearly equal to that of Augustus (16.6) for the team lead. She leapfrogged Augustus last season with an average of 18.5 points per game. And now shes bypassed the rest of the league with her 23.9 points per game average, the highest season average since Diana Taurasi averaged 24.1 points in 2008.
Hot Lynx: The Lynx are looking to advance to the WNBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, a feat that has not been done since the Houston Comets won the first four WNBA championships from 1997 to 2000.
The NBAs Miami Heat just capped off a run of four straight trips to the NBA Finals, going 2-2 in the championship series. The Lynx are 2-1 over the past three seasons, but unlike the Heat, are the not the favorite to come out of their conference this year. That designation goes to the top-seeded Phoenix Mercury, who just completed a 29-5 season, setting a new WNBA record for most wins in a season.
One for Becky: Last week the Stars celebrated Beckys Night as they honored their longtime point guard, who is hanging up her kicks after this season and picking up a clipboard as the newest member of Gregg Popovichs coaching staff with the San Antonio Spurs.
Hammons career is among the most celebrated in the history of the WNBA: shes a 7-time All-Star, 4-time All-WNBA guard, ranks 7th all time in scoring, 4th all time in assists and in 2011 was voted as one of the top 15 players in league history.
One item missing from her incredible resume is a WNBA title. Hammon and the Stars made it to the Finals in 2008, but were swept by the Detroit Shock. Can the Stars make another run in Beckys farewell season?
The Stars won only one of their five regular season games with the Lynx, but they did so when it mattered most. The Stars topped the Lynx, 92-76, on Friday, Aug. 15 to clinch a playoff berth in what could have been Hammons final home game as a WNBA player. Now, the Stars have extended their season and will host Game 2 on Saturday, Aug. 23 and perhaps more games if they can advance past the Lynx.