Lynx have upper hand in winner-take-all game
By Steve Samek
It all comes down to every sports fans’ best dream and worst nightmare: the winner-take-all game.
The WNBA will give us this opportunity as the Minnesota Lynx meet the Los Angeles Sparks for the WNBA Title.
Before I get to my pick, first let’s get a quick look to the background of both teams’ runs to the championship.
The Sparks were the regular season runner up with a 26-8 record. Two games ahead of them were the Lynx at 28-6. Minnesota took two of three from LA in the regular season, but LA had the largest margin of victory in any of the three contests in a 94-76 win on June 24.
In the WNBA, the top eight teams are sent to the playoffs, and both teams received double-byes into the semi-finals. The Sparks matched up with the No. 4-overall seeded Chicago Sky. The Lynx got the No. 8-overall seed in the Phoenix Mercury.
Minnesota advanced easily winning the series 3-0, while the Sparks dispatched Chicago in four games to set up the final matchup,
Game One was a 78-76 win for the visiting Sparks. Minnesota returned the favor in Game Two with a 79-60 win on home floor. LA used its home court advantage to take game three 92-75. Game Four was stolen by the Lynx 85-79 behind Maya Moore’s 31 points.
Game Five is in Minnesota tonight at 8 p.m. I don’t know how much of a factor home court advantage will be, as the home team fell during all three regular season matchups. While in the playoffs, each team has one victory on the road and at home.
The second factor of Game Five is history. The Lynx are the current defending champions, and Minnesota has won three championships in five trips to the finals in the last six years.
The Sparks’ last run was in 2002 with the second of back to back titles. Minnesota then defeated the Sparks in 2003 in their last appearance in a final.
The true deciding factor in this game will be star player shows up for which team.
For the Lynx, it has to be Moore, who averaged the fifth highest points total in the regular season with 19.4 points per game, while scoring 22.3 points per game in the playoffs. Moore is also fresh off dropping 31 in the Game Four victory. Look for Moore to be complemented by Sylvia Fowles and her 9.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs.
LA has two dynamic scorers in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike leads LA with a 19.7 points per game average for the season in addition to 9.1 rebounds per game. Ogwumike is down a bit in scoring and rebounding for the playoffs with 18.6 points per game and nine rebounds per game, however both are top ten league marks. Parker complements with 18.3 points per game in the playoffs, up from 15.3 points per game in the regular season. This is Parker’s highest scoring output in the playoffs in her career with 146 points.
Offense has been the key this series, as both teams own a lopsided series win. LA was 17 points Minnesota’s better in Game Three, while the Lynx won by a series-high 19 points in Game Two.
Rebounding was a key to setting up Minnesota’s offense in Game Four’s six-point win. LA’s Game One win was the closest of the bunch, with the win coming on a buzzer beater by Alana Beard.
Prediction: Lynx win Game Five and the WNBA Title
Moore is hot at the right time, and the rest of the offense has been better than LA by six points in total. The Lynx are also playing at home where they own a 17-3 mark. LA does have a finals win at Target Center, but I doubt they get a second one.
Finally, the Lynx know how to win; they were the top team in the regular season and won an easy playoff series. They have been to five of the last six finals with three titles.
The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight.
All stats via www.wnba.com