9:30 p.m. at Los Angeles • Staples Center • ESPN2, 106.1-FM
Finalists relegated to one-game showdown
Preview: This is a first-round, single-elimination game, with the winner advancing to another single-elimination game at Connecticut or Washington. The teams met in the Finals last season, but both struggled at times this season. This is the fourth straight season these two teams have met in the playoffs, with the Lynx winning the 2015 Western Conference semifinals 2-1, the Sparks winning the 2016 Finals in Game 5 at Target Center on Nneka Ogwumike’s late basket and the Lynx winning Game 5 of last year’s Finals at Williams Arena. The Sparks won the season series 3-1.
Players to watch: Lynx F Maya Moore averaged 18 points on 42.3 percent shooting this season, with 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists. C Sylvia Fowles averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds. G Seimone Augustus averaged 10.8 points. The Sparks are led by F/C Candace Parker (18.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists), Ogwumike (15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds) and G Chelsea Gray (14.9 points, 5.1 assists).
Injuries: Lynx F Rebekkah Brunson (concussion) is questionable; G Danielle Robinson (ankle surgery) is out. The Sparks report no injuries.
Keys to the game
1. Maya Moore vs. Alana Beard: This has been a key matchup every time these two teams have played. Beard has, traditionally, been one of the league’s best at defending Moore. In four meetings this season, Moore averaged 11.2 points, her lowest average against any team.
2. Sylvia Fowles vs. Candace Parker/Nneka Ogwumike: Traditionally the Sparks have tried to double-team Fowles while leaving Rebekkah Brunson more opportunity to score. When Brunson has taken advantage of this — like in Games 4 and 5 of last year’s finals — the Lynx win. Problem is, Brunson might not play tonight. If not, Cecilia Zandalasini would start in her place, and the Sparks would have a hard time leaving her to double Fowles. Fowles averaged 17.5 points vs. the Sparks this season, but also 5.0 turnovers, the most against any opponent.
3. Slowing the Sparks’ big three: Parker averaged 21.3 points vs. the Lynx this season, Ogwumike 15.2 and Gray 15.2.
4. Rebounding: The Lynx won last year’s championship in large part because they were able to beat the Sparks up on the boards in the final two games of the series. That will be more difficult without Brunson.