7:00 p.m., Xcel Energy Center
Where to Watch: ESPN 2
Where to Listen: 106.1 BOB FM
The wait is finally over. The WNBA semi-finals will officially tip-off on Wednesday evening as the 28-6 Minnesota Lynx welcome the 16-18 Phoenix Mercury into their new home for games one and two.
In this best-of-five series, the defending WNBA Champions will look to use home court to their advantage, despite it not being their true home court, and get out to a quick 2-0 series lead.
“I think it’s one of those things that when we talk about ‘controllables,’ it’s beyond our control,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We’ve just been a group that the ones who have been around for a while, we laugh about all that we’ve been through and all the places that we’ve played at. The mindset is, we’re very fortunate that we have a beautiful facility over there in St. Paul. We’re excited to be over there with some maybe new fans from the East Metro, and we said, ‘we don’t care where the game is played,’ it’s a building, this is really about us being there together and our fans. I know our fans are going to come out where the game is and we’ll all be there, if we’re all there, that’s our home court.”
These two Western Conference foes are matching up with a trip to the Finals on the line for a fourth year in a row, speaking to each team’s talent and veteran leadership.
Minnesota and Phoenix opened the celebrated 20th WNBA season this year against one another on May 14th, and June 7th marked the last time these two squads lined up for battle. The Lynx swept the season-series against the Mercury, but that was over 100 days ago. Look for this series to be more like a heavyweight Championship fight as both teams are feeling confident and playing great basketball.
“Phoenix is playing great, there’s no question about it. Winning two hard playoff games builds your confidence. We’ve been there, we’ve experienced that, when the game gets hard and you’ve had success, it kind of catapults you to a new place and that’s where they’re at. They’re a really good team regardless of whether they’re the eighth seed or how they got here, it’s well documented how many Olympians are going to be on the floor tomorrow night. It’s a 200-minute series and I think our fans are in for a real treat and fans of the league as well, this is going to be a really, really, amazing series.”
Before taking in Wednesday night’s action, be sure to keep these fun facts in mind:
– When thinking about ways in which the Lynx can exploit the Mercury, the statistics don’t lie. In the regular season, Minnesota ranked second in the WNBA in assists per game (20.0) and points allowed (77.0). The Mercury on the other hand were eighth in both of those categories, tallying 16.9 assists per matchup, and giving up over 83 points a game. The Lynx were able to muster at least 85 points in each of their three season contests, while Phoenix could only get it over the 80-point threshold once.
– These two teams know how to score the pumpkin. With both teams having unbelievable scoring threats, look for this series to be filled with high-scoring games. The Mercury have five players who average double-digit points per game, while the Lynx only have three. Minnesota meanwhile has eight players averaging over six points per game, while Phoenix stays at that five number, heavily relying on those five double-digit scorers to carry them to victory.
– Phoenix is coming into town after winning two single-elimination playoff games against higher seeds. First beating a solid Indiana Fever team by 11, and then strolling into New York to take out the Liberty 101-94. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner have played awesome basketball so far in the playoffs (shocker), and have combined to average 45 points on 58 percent shooting, 12 boards and six assists in their first two post-season games.
Coming Off Of…
A nice break. Minnesota last played a competitive WNBA game on Sept. 17th when they defeated the Atlanta Dream at home 95-87. For the past 11 days, the defending league Champions have been resting, practicing and waiting for this day to come. With a veteran group like the Lynx have, the extended rest period should payoff for them in a big way if this series should go to five games.
“They’re really ready to play,” Coach Reeve said while smiling. “There was a little bit of a celebration about this being our last practice. We talked with them about that once we get going, we won’t have any more practice time, in between games is tough, it’s tough to really do the things that we’ve had a chance to do this week. They know it, I think they’ve had a tremendous mindset about it, have worked pretty hard in all of the things that you’d hope for, and now you just have to see if we can actually apply it.”
Phoenix, as stated before, won on the road on Sept. 24th against the New York Liberty 101-94. Taurasi, Griner and Penny Taylor combined to tally 72 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. If Minnesota hopes to prevent Phoenix from scoring over the century-mark, they will need to contain Taurasi on the perimeter and get a body on Griner every time a shot goes up. Yes, that is much easier said than done, but fortunately for the Lynx, they have a couple of players named Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles who have proven on multiple occasions that the tough task can be accomplished.