Five games, 200 minutes.
That is the window of opportunity before the Minnesota Lynx as they aim for their seventh WNBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
The fourth-seeded Lynx are back in the WNBA Semifinals for the first time since 2017 where they will meet the No. 2 seed Seattle Storm in a best-of-five series at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. with a trip to the Finals on the line. Seattle took both games of the regular-season series between the two sides.
Finishing the regular season 14-8, Minnesota advanced to the Semifinal Round following their 80-79 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Thursday’s single-elimination Second Round Matchup. Damiris Dantas led the Lynx with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, while 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half to help Minnesota overcome an 11-point deficit in the third quarter. The Lynx played stout defense down to the wire to ensure the victory as Skylar Diggins-Smith’s last-second attempt bounce missed to the left as time expired.
Seattle lands in the Semifinals by virtue of a double-bye of the First and Second Rounds after securing the No. 2 seed with a record of 18-4. With the top seed on the line, the Storm fell 86-84 to the Las Vegas in their regular-season finale, without their core of Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart.
Tipoff for Game One is set for 8PM Central Time Tuesday on ESPN2, here is how the two sides match-up:
Point guard: Crystal Dangerfield vs. Sue Bird
The series’ backcourt matchup spans over 20 years of UConn Huskies history as the 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield meets the three-time WNBA Champion and all-time league assist leader Sue Bird.
Dangerfield earned recognition as this season’s top rookie with averages of 16.2 points and 3.6 assists per game. Her eight games of 20-plus points are the most by a Lynx rookie since Seimone Augustus in 2006.
In a return season from injury, Bird averaged 9.8 points and 5.2 assists in 11 games in 2020. Despite limited action, Bird shot 46.9% from three-point range on 4.5 attempts per game.
Shooting guard: Odyssey Sims vs. Jewell Loyd
Both shooting guards in this Semifinal series are capable of putting up big numbers on any given night. Minnesota’s Odyssey Sims put up 39 points as a rookie with the then-Tulsa Shock, while Seattle’s Jewell Loyd scored 35 points versus the Indiana Fever earlier this season. Both powder kegs ready to explode in the box, both guards are key to their team’s chances in the series.
Small Forward: Napheesa Collier vs. Alysha Clark
Napheesa Collier does it all: the 2019 WNBA Rookie of Year finished top 10 in total points, rebounds, steals, and blocks. Collier’s increased output to lead the Lynx in the absence earned her a top-five finish in Most Valuable Player voting this season.
On the Seattle side, Alysha Clark stops it all. Nicknamed ‘The Eraser,’ Clark is the frontrunner for WNBA Defensive Player of the Year with the league’s top defensive rating for 2020. Offensively, Clark averaged 10 points per game on 52.2% shooting from three-point range in 2020.
Power Forward: Damiris Dantas vs. Breanna Stewart
Damiris Dantas enjoyed a breakout season with a career-high 12.9 points per game on 43.3% shooting from deep. The Brazilian finished the regular season with seven consecutive double-figure scoring performances, including a career-high 28 points in a win over Chicago on September 2.
Stewart didn’t miss a beat in her return from missing the 2019 season recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. A runner-up in MVP voting, Stewart averaged 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 2020.
Center: Sylvia Fowles vs. Natasha Howard
Sylvia Fowles missed 15 games this season with a calf strain before returning for the Lynx’s Second Round game versus Phoenix. A two-time WNBA Finals MVP, Fowles holds career averages of 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. The 12-year veteran became the WNBA’s all-time rebounding leader earlier in 2020.
Natasha Howard anchored the WNBA’s top defense with a total of 38 steals and 14 blocks in 2020. Offensively, Howard averaged 9.5 points on 53% shooting from the field this season.