The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angles Sparks are both on top in their respective series starts into the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.
The Lynx have found themselves in a rematch of the Western Conference finals from last season with the Phoenix Mercury. On the other hand, the Sparks are in the semifinals for the first time since 2012 in a matchup with the sole Eastern Conference team left in the playoffs, the Chicago Sky.
Minnesota and Phoenix
Perhaps the greatest rivalries in the WNBA, the Lynx and Mercury are in a classic playoff rivalry. The teams have met in the semifinals four times since 2011; meanwhile, the Lynx have won three of those series and have gone on to win the three of those matchups along with a championship for the year.
In the first game, the Lynx made a statement by setting a playoff game high of 113 points in the win.
Even though the Mercury lost, their core group of players looked strong. Diana Taurasi scored 25 points followed by Britney Griner with 16.
The Mercury narrowly scraped into the playoffs this season at the number eighth seed overall. They’ve shown a fire in the past two games of the playoffs that ignited on the roster since the return on the mid-season break.
Heading into the second game, they’ll need to lock up their defense. They managed 20 rebounds while the Lynx gathered 38. Blocking shots and guarding the perimeter has been a problem with the Mercury as well. While they’ve managed to iron out some of those kinks since the Olympic break, they’ll need to step it up once again.
Maya Moore led the Lynx with 31 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Lindsay Whalen backed her up with 19 points, and four more Minnesota players scored in the double digits.
On their defense, the Lynx also have a now three-time defensive player of the year, Sylvia Fowles. For the Mercury to get to the basket, they’ll have to work their best to get around her in the post.
The Mercury and Lynx play in Minnesota again tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST.
Los Angeles and Chicago
Los Angeles stunned everybody this year after finishing last season 14-20. This year, they were 26-8 in the regular season, their best record since 2001.
The Sparks continued to roll in their first game of the playoffs by taking out the Sky 95-75.
Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike led the offense with 30 and 27 points respectively. Ogwumike was just named the 2016 MVP and proved why. She shot a team-high of 78.6 percent from the field and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Also recently earning honors, Jantel Lavender just earned the Sixth Woman of the Year award. She came off the bench with 12 points and four rebounds.
With an explosive offense, the Sparks are clicking on all the right cylinders at just the right time.
The Sky, on the other hand, are not as fortunate. Without Elena Delle Donne, the team is not playing at full strength. Delle Donne averages 21.5 points per game this season; without her team leader Jamierra Faulkner put just 13 points up. Overall, the Sky shot 41.7 percent from the field.
Chicago can keep pace on the defensive side of the ball. The problem arises when it comes time for a big shooter to step up. For Game 2, they’ll have to fill Delle Donne’s gap. There’s still no timetable for her recovery, so in the meantime, the offense will have to kick it into another gear.
The Sparks and Sky stay in Los Angeles for Game 2 tonight at 10:00 p.m. EST.