Fowles vs Griner highlight Rivalry matchup
By Patrick Ralph
In a league full of dominant frontcourt players, all eyes will be on Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner when the Mercury and Lynx get together Friday night in Minneapolis.
The Lynx’s Fowles and Mercury’s Griner have both been WNBA All-Stars, champions, Defensive Player of the Year winners and All-WNBA First Team honorees in their careers.
Offensively, Griner is the more skilled scorer around the rim. The 2017 WNBA scoring champion is averaging over 19 points per game and leading the Mercury in scoring through the first five games of the season.
However, the Lynx’s offense is predicated on getting Fowles touches down low early and often. Through five games, Fowles is leading the Lynx in scoring with over 17 points per game. When Minnesota involves last year’s league MVP from the start on the offensive end, it opens up the rest of the Lynx’s offense. The sooner that Minnesota establishes Fowles in the game, the better it plays.
Phoenix looks to run much of its offense through Griner at the start of games. The team that is able to establish its center offensively from the opening tip Friday will have a huge advantage towards getting the win.
Defensively, it is a coin toss between who is better at defending the rim. Just the presence alone of both players in the game will deter opponents from driving into the lane and looking to score at the basket. Griner, who has led the league in blocked shots for the past five seasons, is already averaging over two blocks per game this year.
Meanwhile, Fowles is averaging over a block a game so far for the Lynx. While Fowles is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, Griner has earned the honor twice in her career.
Neither team is going to try and challenge the opposing center in the paint. Therefore, this game could come down to three-point shooting. While Phoenix has been average so far at just over 35 percent from three, Minnesota’s near 32 percent three-point shooting ranks towards the bottom of the WNBA.
Despite their struggles from three, the Lynx are one of the best three-point shooting defenses in the league. So far, opponents are shooting 29 percent from beyond the arc against Minnesota. While opponents have fared slightly better from three against Phoenix, the Mercury’s defense is still holding teams to only 33 percent shooting from the three-point line.
But the one area that Fowles has a significant advantage over Griner, and that could be the difference in the game, is rebounding. While Griner ranks second on Phoenix in rebounding behind forward DeWanna Bonner with over six rebounds per game, Fowles is averaging more than double with 12.8 rebounds per game, which is tops in the WNBA.
Behind Fowles, the Lynx are the best rebounding team in the WNBA with almost 40 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, only the Sparks average fewer rebounds per game in the league than the Mercury.
While the matchup of scoring machines Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi will be enticing, the battle between Fowles and Griner will determine who comes out on top in this Western Conference duel.