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Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury v. Minnesota Lynx

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Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the Western Conference Finals are slated to start. The top two teams from the West will be squaring off in the Minnesota Lynx and the Phoenix Mercury. Here's a preview of the series.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It's not surprising to see these two teams fighting it out in the Western Conference Finals; the Lynx have been beating people up all year, and the Mercury have, well, Brittney Griner. But there is a lot more to that matchup. This article will be split into three parts: a look at how they match up statistically, an overview of the starters/bench, and a final conclusion where a prediction is made.

TEAM STATS

- Phoenix Mercury

- 75.2 PPG

- 72.3 OPPG

- 20-14

- Minnesota Lynx

- 75.5 PPG

- 71.7 PPG

- 22-12

Just looking at barebones stats, the teams are pretty even. Essentially identical home/away records (within a game or two), within one game of the same conference record; hell, they're even both close to the same record in their last ten games, with the Lynx at 4-6 and the Mercury at 5-5. It's an even matchup, from this point of view.

Even if you were to dive in deep, there really isn't much difference there either. This is not surprising; unlike many other sports, in basketball, the best team almost always wins.

It is hard to sustain a hot streak in basketball long enough to really make some noise, though it has happened before.To look at these games strictly from the broadest, most overhead view doesn't really tell us anything more than what we already knew. For that, we need to focus in more tightly, on the players themselves.

PLAYER OVERVIEW

This is a star-studded, awards-filled matchup. The Lynx have two of the best fifteen players in the WNBA, in Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles. Fowles is a two-time DPOY, and Maya Moore is a two-time MVP. On the Mercury side, the two best players are, without a doubt, Brittney Griner (two-time DPOY) and DeWanna Bonner (three-time Sixth Woman of the Year).

But these teams have much more going for them than just superstars. Twelve of the fourteen players on the Mercury are averaging double-digit minutes, which reduces wear and tear on said superstars. While not putting up massive stats, they form a solid bench that the Mercury can (and did, when Griner was suspended) dip into when things need a change.

Of the 14 players on the Lynx roster, 13 of them play double-digit minutes. A large part of this is because of the injuries to players and because of the unique nature of Fowles' situation (missing the first half of the season because of trade demands.

However, the Lynx are also getting back really good players at precisely the right time. Lindsey Whalen and Seimone Augustus have returned just in time for the playoffs, and they will add much-needed firepower and skill to the Lynx roster.

It's going to come down to the starters on this roster. Sylvia Fowles and Griner will be close to a wash, if a slight edge to Griner. Maya Moore is better than Bonner. Those two probably come out close to a wash in total; perhaps a slight advantage to the Lynx. Dupree and Augustus are close, at least in terms of numbers. But after that, the Lynx seemingly have the advantage.

CONCLUSION

My research tells me that the Lynx will win this series; the Lynx have been really good all year, they've gotten players back, and they're jelling at the right time. My gut is telling me that Griner, Bonner, and Dupree could really do some damage, and that if Griner can take up all of Fowles energy on the offensive end, that the Lynx will have a tough time winning. So, proverbial gun to my head?

Lynx in three.