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(Wild) Wild West: Western Conference Playoff Preview

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Western Conference preview

Chris Poss

Hello, and welcome, to the Swish Appeal Western Conference Playoff Preview! With the regular season concluded, it only makes sense to preview and give our desperately needed opinions on the upcoming playoffs.

I also wrote a predictions piece some weeks ago, and will be using that as part of forming my opinions/arguments for the upcoming column. If you haven't read that piece, you might want to do so; not only because it will help you understand this article better, but because I am a thirsty, weak individual who seeks validation.

Let's get to it!

LEGEND

-    L-10: Last 10 games

-    SAF: Scoring Average For

-    SAA: Scoring Average Against

-    RSAF: Regular Season Scoring Average For

-    RSAA: Regular Season Scoring Average Against

-    PEwin#: Pythagorean Expectation winning percentage

-    ( # +/- ): How many games I missed by.

#1 - Minnesota Lynx

  • Record: 22-12 (65%)
  • L-10: 4-6
  • L-10 SAF/SAA: 70.3/72.3
  • L-10 RSAF/RSAA: 75.5/71.7
  • PEwin#: 28-6 (-6)

This team didn't meet expectations. They were underperforming their Pythagorean Expectation numbers by about a game or so, which makes it double surprising that they ended up with the record that they did.

As it says above, the Lynx went 4-6 in their last ten; this was mostly due to the fact that their offense completely disappeared. They were five points worse than their regular season average, at 70.3, which if stretched out over a full season, would be the second worst in the entire league.

Going forward, you have to be a little concerned. They're taking on the Los Angeles Sparks, who made the playoffs at 10-24. Normally, you wouldn't be that concerned about a team with that poor of a record, but a bad start and missing Candace Parker for 18 games undersells the skill of the team. I suspect that the Lynx will still win, but I would be concerned to see these guys struggling so much this late in the game.

I was more than a little off in my predictions, but in my defense, the Lynx several underperformed all of their numbers. It's not my fault, okay?!

#2 - Phoenix Mercury

  • Record: 20-14 (59%)
  • L-10: 5-5
  • L-10 SAF/SAA: 72.3/63.1
  • L-10 RSAF/RSAA: 75.2/72.3
  • PEwin#: 22-12 (-2)

Brittney Griner was suspended seven games, which hurt the Phoenix early; had she been there the whole time, the Mercury might've challenged for the one seed. In their last ten games, they went 5-5, which is surprising given their numbers over that last ten. A deeper read of the numbers show a really good defense with historic numbers inflated by holding two opponents near 50 points.

I was only a little off on their record, which is good for me, but bad for them; winning two more games ties them with the Lynx. I think that they could beat the Lynx in a five game series, especially if Griner plays as she definitely can. Their offense is a little stale, at only 75 points; that is exactly middle of the pack, according to WNBA statistics, but their defense was the fourth best in the league. They could really make some noise.

#3 - Tulsa Shock

  • Record: 18-16 (53%)
  • L-10: 8-2
  • L-10 SAF/SAA: 78.5/76.4
  • L-10 RSAF/RSAA: 77.7/77.1
  • PEwin#: 18-16 (=)

I did it! I really did it! This is the only record in the Western Conference Playoff teams that I nailed exactly. I am a genius!

But in all seriousness: the Shock look really, really good. They underperformed their Pythag by 12%, which was huge, and that spelled well for their future. They really haven't improved all that much in their other numbers; their L-10 numbers are not markedly different from their regular season numbers.

But even with them playing up to their potential late, it doesn't really mean much in terms of how I view them in the playoffs. I think that they will probably lose to the Mercury, mostly because they are still missing Skylar Diggins, but I suppose they could win the series if a few things break their way.

#4 - Los Angeles Sparks

  • Record: 14-20 (41%)
  • L-10: 6-4
  • L-10 SAF/SAA: 75.3/74.7
  • L-10 RSAF/RSAA: 73.6/74.6
  • PEwin#: 12-22 (-2)

This team is the team I am going to watch most closely in the playoffs. As I mentioned in the Lynx preview, this is a different team with Candace Parker at the helm. She is the one of the best players in the game, and in the history of the WNBA, and you can never count out a team with a player like that on the roster.

They were much, much better when she returned, but the Sparks have an uphill battle. Their offense over the L-10 games improved, but not massively; their defense remained the same, essentially. The Lynx should be wary of them, because if their poor play continues, Los Angeles could beat them.