The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are all tied up after battling one another for 160 minutes so far in this Championship series.
The #1 and #2 ranked teams heading into the playoffs will go head-to-head one last time for all the marbles on Thursday night.
The four games so far have been extremely entertaining to watch and unpredictable/interesting in their outcomes. Game 1 featured an LA buzzer-beater. Game 2 saw the Lynx dominate from the get-go. Game 3 was pretty much over after the first eight minutes. And Game 4, similar to the first contest, had fans on the edge of their seat until the closing moments.
Trying to make sense of the chaotic series, let’s take a look at the overlooked areas in which Minnesota did well in the two wins, and struggled with in the losses.
WINS: Games 2 & 4
Rebounding– Minnesota was +30 on the boards.
Turnover Differential– Minnesota tallied nine more giveaway than Los Angeles.
Opponent’s 3-point Percentage– The Lynx forced LA to go 11-for-38 from beyond the arc = 28.9 percent.
Free-Throw Attempts– The defending league Champions went to the charity stripe four more times than the Sparks.
Bench Points– LA’s bench outscored Minnesota’s reserves by eight points.
LOSSES: Games 1 & 3
Rebounding– Minnesota held a +3 advantage on the boards.
Turnover Differential– The Lynx coughed up the ball ten more times than the Sparks did.
Opponent’s 3-point Percentage- LA was able to make 10 of their 27 shots from deep = 37 percent.
Free-Throw Attempts– The Lynx were able to muster two more attempts.
Bench Points– The Sparks’ reserves dropped 30 points while Minnesota’s bench players contributed 26, a four point advantage for LA.
Sure, some of the stats don’t add up. Minnesota is losing the turnover battle in each game by an average of more than four, yet they still have won two of the four contests. Free-throw attempts are basically a wash and the Lynx, who are known for their depth, have somehow survived without great bench play.
But instead of looking at the statistics that make this series more complex than it already is, concentrate on the two categories that explain why each team won the games that they won. Rebounding and the the 3-ball.
In victories, Minnesota has obliterated Los Angeles on the glass. In losses, rebounding has pretty much been even. In wins, the Lynx forced the Sparks to take tough shots from deep and only allowed them to make 29 percent of their attempts. In defeats, bump that 29 number up eight percentage points and you have what LA averaged from beyond-the-arc in Games 1 & 3.
Both categories come down to one thing… hustle. Minnesota needs to be tenacious on the boards and cannot allow Los Angeles to get easy looks from deep. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve mentioned after LA’s dominating victory in Game 3 that it’s no longer about the gameplan, talent, or plays- in the Finals, it all comes down to who wants it more.
“So I mean, it’s a want to thing just like when we do it,” Reeve said. “It’s stupid. It’s a want-to thing. There’s nothing tactical. It’s just they want the ball, and whoever does it in Game 4 is going to win.”
Well, it appears the WNBA’s Coach of the Year was correct, as she has been countless times all season. The Lynx notched a +16 rebounding advantage in their last outing which included 14 total offensive rebounds. If Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson and company are able to solidify their presence down-low and out-rebound the Sparks by eight or more, according to the past 160 minutes of this series, they’ll be back-to-back Champions when the final horn sounds.