It's a knockout!
By Charles A Smith JR
(🎶 Momma Said Knock You Out, By: LL Cool J)
With something ripped out of an epic fairy tale comic collaboration between Marvel and DC Comics universes, the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks are set to face off this Sunday in a champions rematch that is worth the watch! The Western Conference champion Sparks and the Eastern Conference champion Lynx defeated the Washington Mystics and the Phoenix Mercury respectively within a new playoff format with, “...the eight teams with the highest winning percentages regardless of conference qualify for the playoffs and are seeded based on their record… (WNBA.com)".
The Minnesota Lynx secured the top overall seed in the West this season with a 27-7 record, affording them two rounds to watch the other contenders compete for a shot at them. Their Ahosi Tribe-esque roster is composed of the Most Valuable Women in Slyvia Fowles (19pts,10rbs,2blks] finally quieting critics on her decision to move on from Chicago, W cover star Maya Moore who continues to raise the profile of the W in addition to remaining the class of genderless basketball discussion(19pts,4rbs,5ast), my favorite Lynx and Elite Scorer, Seimone Augustus (19pts, 4rbs,4ast) who has not forgotten how to fill it up, and finally we have Rebekka Brunson…
The Los Angeles Sparks finish the season at the conclusion of conference finals play 2nd overall seed at 26-8, one game back of their championship rivals in part to their Dahomey province like roster including: WNBA legend and cover star Candace Parker (20pts,9rbs,7ast) whom is intent to validate her legacy as a basketball great in this next series, young and upcoming guard Oddesy Sims (18,2rbs,3ast on 47% FG shooting), All W Defensive First Team and legendary 70% FG shooter at one point in her career Nneka Ogwumike, (15pts,10rbs) and Former Mystic great, Defensive Player of the Year, and Elite Scorer in Alana Beard...
During their in-season matchups, both rosters did not disappoint in attempting to prove to the world who was more dominant. In their June 21st matchup, former Connecticut standout and key reserve Renee Montgomery, nailed a game-winning 3 to help her Lynx remain undefeated while handing the Sparks their first lost of the season. At that point, you notice two dominant forms of play with the Lynx preferring the frontcourt route centered around anchor Sylvia Folwes in addition to the wing production of Augustus and Moore, while the Sparks share the wealth offensively relying heavily on their very productive forward core of Ogwumike and Parker to win games. This showed me that both teams know how to play their respective styles and were able to adapt to their opponent which presumes execution all the more important as we approach the Finals. In their next meeting on June 24th, the Sparks returned the favor and were able to count on their perimeter offense as they shot the brute Lynx out of the gym defeating them by 19! This illustrated to me that if the Lynx are capable of losing focus at the consequence of not translating their dominance in the paint into point production relative to the Sparks offense being executed by them getting hot from deep. Finally, in their last meeting both teams adjusted their mental and/or game plan to return the game to the wire where the rambunctious home crowd proved too steep for the Sparks to pull out the victory. Playmaker Lindsey Whalen closed this one out at the free throw line to the dismay of her opponents.
The regular season matchups illustrate game time situations that most certainly will reveal for championship sake starting later on today. The following breaks down potential breakthroughs for both teams in making this series another classic;
Whalen v Oddessy: Traditionally Whalen is described as a playmaking point guard that guides the Lync ship and can find anyone of the four options on the Lynx at a moment's notice. However, is she able to keep up defensively this time around as she has yet another athletic and young guard in front of her in Odessy Sims facilitating alongside Candice and currently scoring a much balanced 18 points per game? Conversely, will Sims remain confident on the biggest stage as the Sparks will need every bit of her point production to keep pace overall with the Lynx rotation?
Candace v Maya: Whose picture will they use to sell the W this time around following the conclusion of the Finals? There can only be one and despite the view of the W in the sports atmosphere at large, is it time for Candice to pass the torch?. Despite Parker remaining at the pinnacle of basketball for at least 15 years, Maya Moore has been more physically and commercially durable and keeping pace with the superstars of the W from the first moment she laced up them up in 2011.
Folwes/Brunson v Nneka/Beard: Both groups of opponents dictate the defensive flow of their team and this is the number one indicator of winning in basketball because your rebounding and defensive produces more possessions and conversely takes possessions away from your opponent. Whoever controls the boards and depending from where on the floor, the La Sparks favor long rebounding based on their perimeter scoring prowess and the Lynx favor the frontcourt where Brunson and Folwes overpower the rest of the league.
Result: Sparks Win it all again because of the perimeter defending of Beard and Ogwumeke in addition to their 3 more than 2 offensive will outlast the efforts of Maya and Semoine attempting to keep pace with Sims, Parker, Ogwumeke and Beard.