After two higher seeds were eliminated in two days - both suffering losses on their home courts at some point in the series - can we really take a Minnesota Lynx win tonight for granted after the way the San Antonio Silver Stars won Game 2?
So since most people picked the Lynx in this series, let's take a look at the other side: What did the Silver Stars do right in Game 2 that might help them win Game 3?
Three keys for the San Antonio:
- The Silver Stars didn't outrebound the Lynx: This is a point that can't be emphasized enough because people understandably assumed that the Silver Stars would have to compete on the boards to win this game. Instead, they won while getting beat on the boards 45-30 overall and killed 48.84% to 25% on the offensive boards by percentage. In being their greatest consistent weakness, the Silver Stars have also shown that they can win while getting dominated on the boards overall, as paradoxical as that might sound. That said, there are limits to that logic: they got beat 17-3 on the boards - and a whopping 80%-10% - in the fourth quarter and the Lynx did close the gap a bit during that time. Conversely, they expanded the lead when they did rebound well in the third quarter (Lynx 12- Silver Stars 10). As has been the case for them throughout the season, they can take a bend (a lot) but not break (much) philosophy on the boards.
- They turned the ball over about half as often as the Lynx: Both of these teams are pretty good ball control teams meaning that the team who loses the ball more often stands to end up at a disadvantage. By far the biggest factor in the Silver Stars' 24-13 third quarter was turnover percentage: they turned it over on only 5.6% of their possessions while the Lynx turned it over on 21.05% of their possessions. That - as well as holding the Lynx to 4-for-19 shooting in the third quarter - helped the Silver Stars build and maintain their substantial lead heading into the fourth.
Becky Hammon playing as an efficient passer and distributor: Although Jia Perkins was by far the statistical MVP of Game 2 with a game-high 24 points, Hammon was the second most important player with 18 points and 6 assists. And her Game 2 performance fit a pattern: Hammon both had the second highest usage rate (25.29%) and the second highest pure point rating (5.71) in one of the best possible balances of scoring and distributing that you'll see from a point guard. On top of that, she was still an efficient scorer (54.47% true shooting percentage) and got to the free throw line at an exceptional rate for a 5'6" guard (61.53%). That's the Hammon they'll need to beat the Lynx again.
But linking Hammon's performance as a point guard to the previous point about turnovers, the Silver Stars as a team were also remarkably efficient - the highest pure point rating of the day: Ruth Riley, whose five assist and no turnover performance netted her an astronomical pure point rating of 14.49. Setting that aside given the type of plays she makes as a post player, three additional players had pure point ratings above average for WNBA point guards (Danielle Robinson, 5.37; Tully Bevilaqua, 4.44; Jia Perkins, 3.33).
Was that Silver Stars basketball at its finest? Well, no coach would tell you that they're pleased with their team having a -15 rebounding differential. But they were as fluid as they've been all season offensively - particularly in the second half - and stingy enough defensively that they were able to win at home.
In Minnesota? Obviously a different story. But the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun's losses at home should have disabused us of the notion that a regular season home record means a postseason win is a given.