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Heated rivalry: Sparks-Lynx Finals rematch needed for WNBA

After the incredible series that was the 2016 Finals, there’s plenty of storylines to watch as the 2017 Finals between the Sparks and Lynx tips off.

WNBA: Minnesota Lynx at Los Angeles Sparks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

For nearly a year, the L.A. Sparks and Minnesota Lynx have been waiting for the rematch that begins on Sunday afternoon as the 2017 WNBA Finals tips off.

2017 marks just the second time in league history that the Finals will be a rematch. It’s only fitting for two teams that gave fans one of the best series in league history last season.

If you need a refresher, it was a back and forth affair that went all the way to five games. The Sparks ended up on top in literally the final seconds.

There were three lead changes in the last 20 seconds of Game 5 alone. The deciding factor came in the form of 2016 league MVP, Nneka Ogwumike, as she put up a fade away jumper to give L.A. a one-point lead with just over three seconds left.

As great as the 2016 Finals were, however, the past is in the past, and there are plenty of storylines to look out for in this epic rematch.

There’s no doubt that the Sparks are peaking at the right time. They swept the Phoenix Mercury to make it to their second straight Finals, and have now won their last 10 games in a row.

That is welcome news in L.A., considering they are looking to defend their title, a feat that has not been accomplished since the Sparks did so in 2002.

In Minnesota, the Lynx have had to live with their last-second defeat in the 2016 Finals, but it has given them plenty of drive in 2017.

The Lynx once again ended the year with a league best 27-7 record, besting the Sparks by one game. Like the Sparks, the Lynx also swept their way to the Finals with three decisive wins over the Washington Mystics.

On another miscellaneous note, Minnesota fans are no doubt hoping that 2017 being an odd-numbered year works to their advantage. Minnesota has won a title in each odd-numbered year going back to 2011.

One reason this matchup is so phenomenal is the fact that it features four players who are arguably at the height of their prime. Between the two teams, four of the last five league MVPs will be on the floor together (the lone exception to this is Washington’s Elena Delle Donne, who won in 2015).

The Sparks will have Ogwumike (2016) and Candace Parker (2013) who currently lead their offense, averaging 18.8 points per game and 16.9 points per game, respectively.

Minnesota will look to this year’s MVP, Sylvia Fowles, as she averaged 18.9 points per game. Just behind her is Maya Moore (2014), averaging 17.3 points per contest.

Each team also has a defensive stalwart, in the form of 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, Fowles, and this year’s recipient, L.A.’s Alana Beard.

But regardless of any individual, what makes each team so fun to watch is that they play team-oriented basketball with finely tuned offensive and defensive systems.

The Sparks and the Lynx will once again provide fans with the best the league has to offer, and with two teams this evenly matched, it’s nearly impossible to use any metric to guess who will walk away with three wins.

That’s precisely what makes this rivalry so compelling.

Game 1 tips off at 3:30 p.m. EST on Sunday on ABC.