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2021 WNBA Playoff Preview: Lynx host Sky in second-round matchup

The Minnesota Lynx have had the Chicago Sky’s number in recent years. They’ll be well-rested when they welcome the Sky to Minnesota for a single-elimination second-round playoff matchup that will feature lots of notable storylines.

Minnesota Lynx v Chicago Sky
Defensive Player of the Year candidate Sylvia Fowles (right) leads the Minnesota Lynx against the Chicago Sky in the second round of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs.
Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Sky, fresh off a first-round victory over the Dallas Wings, will travel north to take on the Minnesota Lynx in the second round of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday.

If regular-season results are any indication, WNBA fans are in for a treat. The Sky and Lynx split their season series at a game apiece, with the road team winning and scoring over 100 points in both outcomes. Chicago led by as many as 27 points as it cruised to a 105-89 victory on June 15, while the Lynx got their revenge on Aug. 21, getting double-figure scoring efforts from six players in a 101-95 win.

Such scores are obviously high by WNBA standards, though much of it could be chalked up to hot shooting, with the Lynx posting a 65.1 true shooting percentage in August and the Sky a 68.1 true shooting percentage in June. Both games were also fairly fast-paced, exceeding 85 possessions; no WNBA team averaged more than 82.5 possessions per 40 minutes in the 2021 regular season.

Will Sunday’s do-or-die playoff game between Chicago and Minnesota be another barn burner? Even if the two teams don’t scorch the nets like they did in the regular season, there’s still potential for a close, exciting game, chock full of interesting storylines.

Chicago Sky v Minnesota Lynx
Sylvia Fowles (left) and Candace Parker have been battling it out for over a decade.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Candace Parker vs. Sylvia Fowles is a good place to start. The two biggest names of the 2008 WNBA Draft are still going strong, with the Lynx’s Fowles in particular doing well, averaging a double-double for the seventh time in her storied career. Fowles was recently tabbed in a Swish Appeal staff roundtable as the 2021 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year; if league award voters agree, Sunday’s game would be an ideal time to honor her.

There’s also the master-versus-apprentice coaching matchup of Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve and Chicago’s James Wade. Wade was an assistant under Reeve when the Lynx won it all in 2017, and though he was named the WNBA’s Coach of the Year in 2019 after guiding the Sky to a 20-14 record, he’s just 1-6 versus Reeve since being hired as Chicago’s head coach.

A win on Sunday, of course, would likely make the Sky’s recent struggles against Minnesota seem insignificant. They’ll have to bring their best against the third-seeded Lynx, who finished the regular season winning 17 of their last 20 games and will be well-rested after earning a first-round playoff bye.

Game information

No. 6 seed Chicago Sky vs. No. 3 seed Minnesota Lynx

When: Sunday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

How to watch: ESPN2, TSN5

Sky injury report: none

Lynx injury report: Damiris Dantas (out for season; right foot), Rennia Davis (out for season; left foot stress fracture)

Keys to the matchup: It’s hard to look past Parker and Fowles as the biggest stars on their respective teams, but Sunday’s game will be far from a one-woman show on either end of the court. With shooters like Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers and Bridget Carleton, the Lynx can space the floor effectively, and they don’t need to rely on any one player to get hot in order to run efficient offense. Chicago, on the other hand, has one of the best shooters in the game in Allie Quigley, though the Sky will need to establish the pace of the game in their favor and get easy transition baskets from athletes Kahleah Copper and Diamond DeShields to put themselves in a good position to win. Rebounding is another thing to watch for: Minnesota was the third-best defensive rebounding team in the WNBA during the regular season (73.6 percent defensive rebounding percentage) while Chicago was the third-worst (69 percent defensive rebounding percentage).