We’re here again. The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, the two best teams in the WNBA, will meet in the Finals for the second year in a row. Pick a statistic; those two are at or near the top in virtually all the ones that count.
That means, at least on paper, that we’re in for a mostly even contest. Two great teams, one looking for revenge, one looking to turn a title into a dynasty, coming together to battle it out.
This article opening has been darn terrible and has taken me nearly two hours to write. I’m really struggling with this. So–
The Lynx are well-coached and well-disciplined, but that doesn’t mean that things always look pretty. Take a look at this play:
There is a lot to like here, not the least of which is the bucket by Maya Moore. But the issue here is one that many teams with overwhelming talent face: why run an offense at all when you can just pass the rock to a superstar? That’s not to say that the Lynx don’t have an offense, or that it isn’t good; just that they have the ability to pass it off to one person, let them go one-on-four, and get buckets.
You can spin it both ways: having that kind of talent leads to letting one person take over, but that also means that the team has a player so talented that an entire team full of rangy athletes like Washington can’t really do anything to stop her.
It won’t be that easy against the Sparks, though:
Jantel Lavender drops into the paint and stonewalls Brittney Griner, one of the most physically gifted players in league history. Lavender has the size and smarts to wall off the paint when she’s in the game, making it difficult for Maya Moore to drive to the hoop.
If Lavender isn’t that, either Candace Parker or Nneka Ogwumike can take that defensive role. That is a lot of length, athleticism, and experience to throw at Maya Moore.
Los Angeles has a lot to throw at the Lynx on offense, too:
Though Brittney Griner deserves the bulk of the blame for this easy basket, she’s not out of position for no reason. The Phoenix Mercury are concerned enough about the players stacking up around the perimeter to hesitate long enough to let someone get behind them. They’ve done well enough as an offense to pull people in, allowing them to dictate the offense on their terms.
Minnesota, though perhaps lacking the physical talents of Griner, aren’t far off with players like Sylvia Fowles. They boast a complete, competent defense, able to move around screens and defend talented players:
Washington does a good job freeing Elena Delle Donne up for a shot, setting a screen that gives her a good mid-range look. The Sparks rotate over very nicely, creating just enough pressure to send Elena Delle Donne’s shot offline. They’ll need that to defend against Maya Moore and the rest of the Minnesota Lynx.
Sparks in five. The combination of Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker are too much for the Lynx to overcome, and the Sparks take it in the final game. But that’s not a firm prediction; if we're to put it into a percentage, I’d say it’s 51% to 49%. One basket here or there could make the difference.