In a rematch of last year’s Finals, Sparks taking on Lynx

By Rachel Galligan

The 2018 WNBA season is officially here, and the highlight of opening weekend is today’s Finals rematch of the Sparks and Lynx. In a rivalry we have all grown to love, these teams have met the last two years in the Finals with Minnesota crowned champs in 2017 and Los Angeles in 2016.

 (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The Lynx receive their 2017 rings and banner tonight, which only adds to the moment.

“I think it adds salt to the wound a little bit,” Sparks star Candace Parker said. “Last time we were on the court we did lose to them, but now we get to hear them get their rings. I think it does add to the rivalry a bit. Those moments push you and motivate you to try and make that happen again.”.

It was announced late Saturday afternoon that Parker will not play in the game due to a back injury and is listed as day-to-day. Shortly after, it was announced that the Sparks signed Karlie Samuelson prior to the contest. This leaves LA with Nneka Ogwumike as their lone presence inside. A red flag when attempting to battle Minnesota’s post players down low.

Key offseason moves for LA included the addition of Russian superstar, Maria Vadeeva, in their first-round 11th overall pick. Veteran guard, Cappie Pondexter was also signed back in mid-February.  The Sparks spent a majority of the training camp without many of their key players and it appears it will be that way headed into today’s matchup as they are without Jantel Lavender, Parker and Vadeeva.

 

Minnesota has their eyes set on defending their 2017 title, something they have not been able to accomplish. The four-time WNBA champions return their primary starting lineup from the previous seasons in Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.

In true offseason fashion, the Lynx bench underwent major changes which brought up questions of depth to go along with veteran minutes. Rene Montgomery left the team in free agency to join the Dream, Jia Perkins and Plenette Pierson retired and Natasha Howard was traded.  The Lynx added Danielle Robinson, Tanisha Wright and Lynetta Kizer to the squad.

Robinson brings a veteran point guard mentality, who is quick and able to defend the top guards in the league. Wright is a 5-foot-11 guard and 12-year WNBA vet joining the team after taking a year off. Kizer brings size and an ability to play some four and five for the Lynx but is battling an injury to start the season.

As these two teams begin their 2018 season today, it’s important to note that both teams are keeping this first game in perspective. What’s done is done and each season brings about a new identity of their own. “But in terms of the evolution and the rivalry of the two teams being as good as they are, it’s just been absolutely tremendous for the league and for the popularity,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.

You can catch the action on ESPN2 later today at 5 p.m. ET as the Lynx host the Sparks at the Target Center.