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Game 1 Preview: No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun begin quest to return to Finals against No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx

The No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun begin their quest for the franchise’s first WNBA title against the No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx.

Connecticut Sun v Minnesota Lynx
The Lynx’s Napheesa Collier and Sun’s Alyssa Thomas battle for a rebound.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA playoffs are here, and the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun begin their quest for the franchise’s first WNBA title against the No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx at home on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN 2). Before we breakdown the matchup and what might happen in the series, let’s talk about how each team got here.

How the Sun got here

Entering the 2023 WNBA season, everyone had the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces at the top. Connecticut was an afterthought. Even though we weren’t too far off in predicting them to finish fourth in our preview, this year was expected to be a retooling season, without former MVP Jonquel Jones and with new head coach Stephanie White.

Connecticut had different plans.

They’ve survived big changes to their roster and coaching staff, yet look as good as ever. Alyssa Thomas earned All-League First Team honors from the Associated Press, while head coach Stephanie White was named Coach of the Year. DeWanna Bonner is having one of her better seasons, averaging 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. With their depth, top-level talent and chemistry, the Sun made winning 27 games look easy.

Connecticut is a complete team. They are top five in steals, points, 3-point percentage and defensive rating, giving them a balanced attack on both sides of the floor. With the experienced duo of Bonner and Thomas, along with new editions like Tiffany Hayes, eliminating the Sun from the playoffs will be a difficult thing to do. Whoever does it will have to play their best ball of the season to get it done.

How the Lynx got here

After starting the season with a 0-6 record, few thought Minnesota could salvage this season. However, when you have Naphessa Collier, you have a chance. The Lynx went 19-15 the rest of the way to clinch the sixth seed and Collier was honored with All-League Second Team and Co-Comeback Player of the Year honors from the AP, leading Minnesota in minutes (33.5), points (21.5) and rebounds (8.5).

It’s not just the Collier show in Minnesota. Kayla McBride leads all guards with an average 14.3 points per game and Diamond Miller is a rookie phenom who is already contributing to winning basketball, scoring 12.1 points in her 26.1 minutes of play.

With wins against New York and Connecticut, Minnesota has proven that they can compete with the best teams in the WNBA when they play to their potential.

Tale of the tape

The head-to-head battle doesn’t bode well for the Lynx as the Sun came out victorious, winning three of four games during the regular season. The good news for Minnesota is two of the games were close. The most recent game between the two teams was on Aug. 1 and so much has changed regarding player rotations and minutes distribution since then, making unwise to take the regular-season results and just copy and paste them into this playoff series. In fact, the one game Minnesota did win was when Collier didn't even play; if Collier is absent for any playoff games, it’s going to be a Lynx L.

What we can takeaway from these games is the rebounding battle likely will determine the winner. The team that won the battle of the boards won three of the four games between these teams. The overall rebounding differential was 135-130 in the Sun’s favor.

Game information

No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx (0-0) vs. No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun (0-0)

When: Wednesday, Sep. 13 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT

How to watch: ESPN 2

Keys to the matchup: For the Lynx, they’ll go as far as Collier takes them. They’ll likely need her to be the best player on the court to have a puncher’s chance at victory. If Miller and/or McBride can have career nights as well, that’s the path towards winning one of the two games they’ll have to play in Connecticut. For the Sun, they need to rely on their strength, which is Thomas and Bonner. If they can control the boards, slow the game down and get timely baskets from Hayes, they could win their two home games and avoid a road Game Three.

Lynx injury report: Jessica Shepard (out; ankle), Lindsay Allen (out; thumb), Natalie Achonwa (out; maternity leave)

Sun injury report: Tiffany Hayes (probable; knee), DiJonai Carrington (questionable; foot), Bernadett Határ (out; knee), Brionna Jones (out; Achilles)