WNBA semifinals: 4 teams, 4 things

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 1: Monique Currie
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 1: Monique Currie /

The Washington Mystics and Phoenix Mercury, each fresh off two single-elimination playoff victories, will look to punch a ticket to the WNBA Finals. The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks will be aiming to return to the Finals after enjoying some extra time off.

You may still be fully anticipating a Finals rematch between the Lynx and Sparks, but these semifinals will not be short on stars. Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver are playing well and Mike Thibault’s starting five has had a chance to build some continuity.

Phoenix, too, enters the semis with a full head of steam behind the stellar play of their role players around Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. Sandy Brondello has done some mixing and matching with lineups throughout the season; perhaps this group will allow them to steal a game in Los Angeles.

Four things I think/predict on each of the four teams left standing:


Los Angeles Sparks

  1. The Sparks’ offense is something to behold. Enjoy it, borrow from it, learn from it.
  2. I think LA’s dribble penetration will set this series apart from Phoenix’s opening round games. The Sparks have more threats to play drive-and-kick, and they’ll be willing to meet Griner at the rim.
  3. I think Riquna Williams, if fully healthy (still unknown), is going to swing a playoff game.
  4. I think some of us should brighten our tone talking about the idea of a finals rematch. Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles are four of the (insert number greater than/equal to four here) absolute best players in the game right now. These semifinal matchups are exciting. If we get the rematch, let’s embrace it.
PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 3: Yvonne Turner
PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 3: Yvonne Turner /

Phoenix Mercury

  1. I think Phoenix needs Yvonne Turner to continue to break out in a big way on both sides of the ball to make this a competitive series.
  2. Monique Currie has been solid in the first two rounds, but to me, this is the kind of moment Phoenix had in mind when they acquired her. They’ll need her to score in bunches off the bench.
  3. Take note of those moments when Brittney Griner puts the ball behind her head and turns to face a double team. A skip pass is coming. Phoenix needs to win those moments and they need their shooters to knock down those shots.
  4. Phoenix obviously needs to steal one on the road. Who better to lead the way than Diana Taurasi? It’s cliche and you’ve heard it before, but after seeing her dig them out of that hole in Connecticut, why put it any other way? 
ST. PAUL, MN – SEPTEMBER 3: Rebekkah Brunson
ST. PAUL, MN – SEPTEMBER 3: Rebekkah Brunson /

Minnesota Lynx

  1. I think Minnesota’s play in these semifinals will remind us early and often how great of a passing team they are. They’ll pick you apart through windows so small that others may not even see. 
  2. The official scorer may not always agree with how I score these, but I think Sylvia Fowles is going to feast in transition all series long.
  3. Rebekkah Brunson is going to make life difficult for Emma Meesseman if she tries to take her off the bounce. 
  4. I think Seimone Augustus is going to get hot and put Minnesota ahead for good in one of these first two games with an 8-0 or 10-0 surge — midrange, from three, floater game, doesn’t matter. She’s been lights out in 2017 (50% from the field, 43% from three, 87% at the line).
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – AUGUST 20: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – AUGUST 20: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt /

Washington Mystics

  1. I’ve said I think Fowles will find success running the floor, but Washington has the size to really go to work on the offensive glass (17 ORebs per game in the playoffs). Expect that tradeoff to be a fluid one. 
  2. I hope the coaches match Ivory Latta and Renee Montgomery minute-for-minute. Watching those two trade buckets would be a lot of fun.
  3. After Natasha Cloud, who steps up off the Washington bench? Tianna Hawkins and Latta knocking down their open shots may be enough on a good night.
  4. I think they need Tierra Ruffin-Pratt to break out offensively. We’ve seen glimpses — a crunch time give-and-go bucket against Dallas, a spinning baseline drive and dish to Krystal Thomas on Sunday. If she can give her team 2-to-3 more of those per game and knock down a few open 15-footers, Washington may steal one on the road.

As always, please be sure to chime in. What are your key factors to deciding these series and who will earn a spot in the WNBA Finals? Catch Tuesday’s action on ESPN2 at 8 and 10 PM EST.

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