The playoffs are going exactly like everyone thought they would, right?
After winning in the fashion that they did on Tuesday, the story of Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury’s postseason run was already starting to write itself. The Minnesota Lynx, however, decided to take matters into their own hands and end that chapter.
Despite having a nine-point lead at halftime, Minnesota’s consistent pressure inside and tenacity on defense whittled that margin down until it was the Lynx who had a multiple possession lead late in the 4th quarter.
Phoenix had the ability to take the lead twice, but a turnover and missed three pointer at the buzzer was all they had to show for down the stretch. Skylar Diggins-Smith finished 3-for-15 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep after having a stellar end to the regular season.
Sylvia Fowles returned to the court for the first time in a month after rehabbing her leg injury. While there was visible rust between the All-Star center and the rest of the squad, having a healthy Fowles to match up with now officially MVP A’ja Wilson is a huge (literally) addition for Minnesota.
Head coach Cheryl Reeve, who just became the third WNBA coach ever to receive three Coach of the Year awards, credited guard Odyssey Sims with the spark in the second half that put the Lynx ahead for good, “Odyssey (Sims) got us going. … She put the team on her back and showed us the pace we needed to play at.”
Damiris Dantas led Minnesota with 22 points, although those two missed free throws with 6 seconds left that gave the Mercury a sliver of hope will haunt her.
The Lynx will face off in a best-of-five series against the two seed Seattle Storm, with Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird looking to add another ring to their lengthy resumes.
Speaking of underdogs, the Connecticut Sun certainly did not look like the lower seed in Thursday night’s matchup. Jumping out to a 22-8 lead after the first quarter, the Sun never looked back en route to a 14-point embarrassment of the Los Angeles Sparks.
Los Angeles was the three seed after a 15-7 condensed season, and this loss may be the best argument yet that something needs to change in the current playoff format. One game is simply too small of a sample size to truly determine the better team, especially when freak illness’s such as Nneka Ogwumike’s migraine can send the third best team packing after just 40 minutes.
Connecticut’s defense deserves all the praise they are getting, no matter who was on the floor. The Sun guards made the explosive Chelsea Gray look lost on the court, holding the veteran point guard to 4 points and no assists. The Sparks were not doing themselves any favors beyond the arc, hitting just two of eighteen threes in the game.
Candace Parker was the lone Los Angeles player over 10 points, and the loss marks the second consecutive year her team has been eliminated by the Connecticut Sun.
With all five starters scoring in double-digits, the Sun played a balance, clean basketball game that clearly exemplified the chemistry they have built in this short season. They will face off against the Las Vegas Aces, and will be eager to take down the number one seed while continuing to defy expectations.