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WNBA Playoffs 2020 Semifinal Preview: (2) Seattle Storm vs. (4) Minnesota Lynx

Over the past decade, the WNBA Finals have featured either the Seattle Storm (2010, 2018) or the Minnesota Lynx (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) in eight of the 10 years, with the teams combining to win six championships over that stretch. Only the 2014 and 2019 Finals did not feature either Seattle or Minnesota.

That trend will continue as the 2020 decade begins as either the Storm or Lynx are guaranteed to advance to the WNBA Finals when the two meet in a best-of-five Semifinal series, tipping off on Sunday, Sept. 20.

Series Schedule

Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 20 – 3PM ET (ABC)
Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 22 – 7PM ET (ESPN2)
Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 24 – 9:30PM ET (ESPN2)
Game 4: Sunday, Sept. 27 – TBD (if needed)
Game 5: Tuesday, Sept. 29 – TBD (if needed)

How They Got Here

Seattle: The Storm won seven of their last eight games to close out the regular season, dropping the regular-season finale to the Las Vegas Aces. The Storm and Aces finished with matching 18-4 records to lead the league, but Las Vegas won the head-to-head tiebreaker to make Seattle the No. 2 seed. The Storm rested both Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird for the final two games of the regular season since they had already locked up a top-two seed and double-bye to the Semifinals.

Minnesota: The Lynx finished the season as the No. 4 seed to earn a bye in the First Round, then edged out the Phoenix Mercury in the Second Round to advance to the Semifinals. Minnesota got 22 points from Damaris Dantas and Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half to lead the Lynx to the win and a meeting in the Semifinals with Seattle – the team that knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs in the First Round last season.

Season Series (Seattle won 2-0)

July 28: Storm 90, Lynx 66
Sept. 6: Storm 103, Lynx 88

In their two regular season meetings, the Storm outscored the Lynx by a total of 39 points, handing the Lynx their worst loss of the season (-24 on July 28) and third-worst loss of the season (-15 on Sept 6). Breanna Stewart led five Storm players in double figures against the Lynx with 18.0 points per game to go along with 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals.

Seattle shot 52.6% from the field against Minnesota, which was the Storm’s top shooting percentage against any opponent this season. Meanwhile, Minnesota shot just 40.3% against Seattle, which was the Lynx’s lowest shooting percentage against any opponent.

Dantas led the Lynx in scoring against the Storm at 20.0 points per game on 50-50-100 shooting splits. Sylvia Fowles posted a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the July 28 matchup, but missed the final 13 games of the regular season due to a calf injury.

Team Season Leaders

STAT SEA MIN
PTS Stewart (19.7) Dangerfield (16.2)
REB Stewart (8.3) *Collier (9.0)
AST Canada (5.5) Dangerfield (3.6)
STL Stewart (1.7) Brown (1.8)
BLK Stewart (1.3) Collier (1.3)
FG% Magbegor (56.9) **Collier (52.3)
3P% #Clark (52.2) Banham (47.2)
3PM Bird (2.1) Dantas (1.8)

#League Leader
*Fowles: 9.7 RPG, DNQ as season leader (GP)
**Fowles: 60.9 FG%, DNQ as season leader (FGA)

Three Things To Watch

UConn vs. UConn Matchups

No other collegiate program is as represented in the WNBA as the University of Connecticut with 16 former Huskies in the league in 2020. Five of those 16 players will be in this series: Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck for Seattle, and Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield for Minnesota.

The point guard matchup features the veteran Bird against the rookie Dangerfield, who was 4 years and 19 days old when Bird made her WNBA debut in May of 2002.

Bird – the WNBA’s all-time leader in games played (519) and assists (2,888) – missed 11 games during the regular season as she dealt with a nagging bone bruise in her left knee. When she was on the court, Bird showed no signs of slowing down, averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 assists with only 1.6 turnovers; she also shot career highs from the filed (49.4%) and from beyond the arc (46.9%) in 2020.

After coming off the bench in her first two games of her WNBA career, Dangerfield was inserted into the starting lineup by Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve and the move paid dividends. Dangerfield averaged 17.4 points and 3.8 assists in 31.4 minutes per game as a starter en route to being the first second-round draft pick to win Rookie of the Year.

In the frontcourt, it will be interesting to see how often Stewart and Collier match up with one another. Both players have a versatility that allows them to work on the perimeter and in the post, and both did a bit of everything to lead their teams this season.

Stewart led the Storm in points, rebounds, steals and blocks, finished second in 3-pointers made and third in assists. She also led the Storm in minutes (30.4) in her first season back after missing all of 2019 with an Achilles tear. Stewart finished as the runner-up in MVP voting to Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson.

Collier led the Lynx in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, finished second in scoring (by 0.1 PPG) and steals (by 0.006 SPG), and third in assists. Collier followed up her impressive Rookie of the Year season in 2019 with improvements across the board as she finished fifth in MVP voting in 2020.

Seattle’s Depth

The Storm go well beyond the superstar duo of Stewart and Bird. After the Storm won the 2018 title, both players missed the 2019 season due to injuries. But the Storm still competed every night and earned a No. 6 seed in the playoffs and advanced to the Second Round before being knocked out by Los Angeles.

During that season, players like Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark, Jordin Canada, Mercedes Russell, Sami Whitcomb all played larger roles and carried that experience with them into 2020. There’s a reason the Storm didn’t see a drop off in point guard play in the 11 games that Sue Bird missed – Canada was ready to fill that void just as she did all last season.

The Storm finished second in the league in scoring this season at 87.5 points per game. They ranked sixth in starters points (62.9) and fourth in bench points (24.7) as the Storm had 10 players average at least 12 minutes per game this season – tied with Phoenix for the most among players that appeared in at least 10 games.

Fowles’ Health

The Lynx are back in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year, a run that began in 2011 when they won their first of four WNBA championship over a seven-year period. Sylvia Fowles joined the Lynx in the middle of that run, winning titles and earning Finals MVP honors in both 2015 and 2017.

Fowles is the only holdover remaining from that Lynx dynasty as the other cornerstones of that run have either retired (Rebekkah Brunson, now an assistant coach with Lynx; Lindsay Whalen, now head coach at University of Minnesota), taken a hiatus (Maya Moore has not played since 2018) or moved on to another team (Seimone Augustus, now with Los Angeles).

Fowles appeared in only seven games during the regular season as she battled a calf injury. She made her return in Minnesota’s Second Round win over Phoenix but definitely showed some rust as she finished with 6 points on 2-8 shooting and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes in her first action in five weeks.

The Lynx will need a healthy Fowles to contend with the Storm frontcourt of Stewart and Natasha Howard.

Team Stats Comparison

STAT SEA MIN
W-L 18-4 (T-1) 14-8 (4)
OffRtg 108.3 (1) 106.7 (3)
DefRtg 93.3 (1) 101.7 (5)
NetRtg 15.0 (1) 5.1 (4)
eFG% 53.2 (3) 51.8 (4)
AST% 68.8 (1) 64.6 (6)
TOV% 17.3 (4) 18.8 (9)
REB% 49.4 (7) 51.0 (4)
PACE 97.39 (6) 95.02 (11)
%PTS 2P 53.6 (7) 52.9 (9)
%PTS 3P 28.8 (6) 29.4 (4)
%PTS FT 17.6 (8) 17.7 (7)
PTS OFF TO 18.5 (2) 17.0 (4)
2ND PTS 10.3 (7) 12.9 (2)
FB PTS 7.0 (T-4) 4.7 (10)
PTS PAINT 36.6 (4) 34.9 (7)
FTA RATE 0.278 (6) 0.273 (7)
OREB% 27.7 (8) 33.1 (1)
DREB% 68.6 (11) 69.2 (10)