Yes, the Minnesota Lynx vs. Los Angeles Sparks WNBA Finals rivalry will — probably, unless some long odds are defeated — remain dormant for another year. But that doesn’t mean this matchup has gotten any less exciting.
The Sparks host the Lynx on Sunday afternoon as the day’s marquee affair, not to mention an important game for Minnesota. A win will give them a home game against the Seattle Storm to kick off the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Because it’ll be a popular ask, here are the two ways the Sparks and Lynx can meet in the 2019 playoffs:
- Lynx beat Storm in Round 1, No. 5 seed beats the No. 8 Phoenix Mercury, leaving the lowest-seeded first-round winner — the Lynx — to play the No. 3 Sparks
- Lynx beat Storm in Round 1, No. 8 Mercury upset the No. 5 seed, Lynx and Sparks win all their remaining games/series and face off in the Finals
It still most likely means a second straight year of a single-elimination game, after a conference semifinals meeting in 2015 and two straight years of meeting in the Finals. But that two teams could play each other in the playoffs five years in a row is still unprecedented.
Plus, that these two teams have maintained a high level of competition — not to mention visibility, as all three of their regular-season games this season will have been on national TV — despite their many lineup shuffles is commendable.
Of course, the Lynx and Sparks aren’t the only teams in action — every team in the league is! On this final day of the regular season, here’s what to look for in each game, as well as how the Lynx, Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky and Seattle Storm can get the best playoff seed possible.
Minnesota Lynx (18-15) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (21-12)
When: Sunday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: ESPN2
Playoffs picture: If the Lynx win, they’re the No. 6 seed. If they lose and the Storm win, they’re the No. 7 seed. Either way, they’re meeting in the first round of the playoffs. The Sparks are the No. 3 seed.
Keys to the matchup: For the Lynx, Lexie Brown and Napheesa Collier were the only two players to score in double figures in both prior meetings. For the Sparks, that honor falls to Chelsea Gray (though Candace Parker and Riquna Williams both had big scoring outputs in the single games they played). Watch these players, because it’s been their consistency that has kept this matchup exciting this season.
All other games are also at 4 p.m. ET, and you can watch them on ESPN3 or WNBA League Pass.
New York Liberty (9-24) vs. Atlanta Dream (8-25)
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
Playoffs picture: Neither team is in the playoffs.
Keys to the matchup: Things aren’t looking good for the Liberty, who are in the midst of another end-of-season slide: six lost games in a row. Meanwhile, the Dream disrupted the Aces’ plans to clinch the No. 4 seed by beating them last time out. With the loser of this game finishing with the league’s worst record, will it be the Dream’s momentum that keeps them out of this position, or can the Liberty muster one last win to end their season on a high note?
Connecticut Sun (23-10) vs. Indiana Fever (12-21)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Playoffs picture: The Sun are the No. 2 seed. The Fever are not in the playoffs.
Keys to the matchup: As announced on Thursday, this will be the Fever’s last game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse until 2022. With a win today, the Fever will bid a pleasant “see you later” to the venue, and they’ll narrowly avoid their home (6-10) and road (6-11) records equaling each other. With the Sun already assured of a spot in the semifinals, they might opt to rest (or give limited minutes to) some of their best players, leaving the door open for someone like Teaira McCowan to take over. But McCowan is riding a five-game double-double streak into this game, so she might just do that anyway.
Chicago Sky (20-13) vs. Washington Mystics (25-8)
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, DC
Playoffs picture: The Sky need a win plus an Aces loss to earn the No. 4 seed. Otherwise, they’ll get the No. 5 seed. The Mystics are the No. 1 seed.
Keys to the matchup: The Sky have already exceeded expectations by winning their last two games. With some help from the Dream, they enter Sunday in a position to earn the No. 4 seed. But playing the top-seeded Mystics in Washington won’t be an easy task. The Sky’s one win against the Mystics came at home on Aug. 23, on an especially hot shooting night for Chicago and an especially cold one for Washington, who won the first two meetings of the season. But like the Fever above, the Sky might be able to do their half of the claim to the No. 4 seed if the Mystics decide to rest some starters. That’s not to say the Sky can’t get the job done with the Mystics at (close to) full strength, but as the Mystics have nothing to lose but more players to injury, resting their best might be a smart move heading into a postseason run that comes with high expectations.
Seattle Storm (17-16) vs. Dallas Wings (10-23)
Where: College Park Center, Arlington, TX
Playoffs picture: The Storm need a win plus a Lynx loss to earn the No. 6 seed. Otherwise, they’ll get the No. 7 seed. The Wings are not in the playoffs.
Keys to the matchup: This one could get fun! The Storm are in must-win mode in order to have their best shot at a home game to open the playoffs, but they’ll have to pull off a win at Dallas to make that happen. Despite being in 10th place, the Wings have the ninth-best home record, with wins against the Sun and the Sparks (twice) on their résumé. The Storm beat the Wings by double figures in both meetings at Seattle, but the Wings today can do their part to ensure no other teams will have to play at Seattle for the entire playoffs (pending a series of upsets). Dallas stands a not-impossible chance of doing so, especially as Arike Ogunbowale chases her fifth straight 30-point game.
Las Vegas Aces (20-13) vs. Phoenix Mercury (15-18)
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Playoffs picture: If the Aces win, they’ll earn the No. 4 seed. If they lose and the Sky win, they’ll get the No. 5 seed. The Mercury are the No. 8 seed and will open the playoffs on the road against the Sky or Aces.
Keys to the matchup: The Mercury have an interesting amount of power in this game’s outcome. Winning will give them a greater chance of facing the Aces again to open the playoffs, while losing will ensure they play the Sky. Still, it’s hard to see Phoenix having that level of control over their play, as they’re dealing with a three-game losing streak (the last two of which have come at home). The Aces and Mercury did split their first two meetings, though, with each team winning a nail-biter at home. Will this game be as close, or will the Aces’ motivation to skip the first round of the playoffs be enough to power them to a big road win?