WNBA playoff preview

  • Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:30 PM

WNBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW

Staff writer Kent Youngblood breaks down the WNBA playoffs, which begin Thursday.

Western Conference Semifinals (best of three) LYNX (26-8) VS. SEATTLE (17-17)

Game 1: 8 p.m. Friday at Target Center • Game 2: 4 p.m. Sunday at the Tacoma (Wash.) Dome • Game 3*: Tuesday at Target Center, TBD.

* if necessary

THE STARTERS

Lynx PPG RPG APG

F Rebekkah Brunson 10.6 8.9 1.5

F Maya Moore 18.5 6.2 3.0

C Janel McCarville 6.3 4.3 2.9

G Seimone Augustus 16.3 3.2 2.5

G Lindsay Whalen 14.9 4.4 5.8

Storm

F Camille Little 10.9 4.7 1.4

F Shekinna Stricklen 10.0 2.8 0.8

F Tina Thompson 14.1 5.8 1.1

G Tanisha Wright 11.9 3.7 4.1

G Temeka Johnson 10.2 2.6 4.0

THE MATCHUP

Minnesota: The Lynx won all four regular-season matchups by 13 points or more. The key for the Lynx will be using their defense to get the transition offense going. The Lynx finished tied for the league lead in fast-break points (13.9 per game). Seattle, which held opponents to a league-low 40.4 shooting percentage, will try to slow the game’s pace. Minnesota finished first in scoring, point differential and three-point shooting percentage. Another key will be rebounding; the Lynx were the league’s third-best rebounding team, Seattle the worst. Moore led the Lynx in scoring vs. Seattle, averaging 19.3 points.

Seattle: The Storm qualified for the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season despite having Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, its two top players, injured all season. This will be the final playoff run for Tina Thompson, the first player ever drafted by the WNBA, who will retire at season’s end. Tanisha Wright has led Seattle scorers vs. Minnesota, averaging 13.8 points. Thompson (10.8) and Shekinna Stricklen (10.5) also averaged in double figures vs. the Lynx. The Storm was 6-4 in its final 10 games, with three of those losses coming against the Lynx

COaCHES

Minnesota: The Lynx are the third team in league history to have three consecutive 25-plus-victory seasons, winning the top playoff seed the past three years. Minnesota has won 80 games in that time, all under head coach Cheryl Reeve.

– the first Lynx coach ever – has been in Seattle since 2006. He has done perhaps his best job coaching this season, considering the injuries his team faced. The Storm won the 2010 title, but has lost in the first round of the playoffs four times under Agler. Still, his ability to coach defense could make this a grind-it-out series.

ETC.

Season series: Lynx swept, 4-0. The Lynx beat the Storm 2-1 in the semifinals last season; Seattle was just a missed Lauren Jackson jumper from winning Game 3. The two teams have faced each other a total of 11 times since the start of the 2012 regular season, with the Lynx going 9-2.

Injury report: Minnesota: None. Seattle: F Alysha Clark (ankle) and Johnson (heel) are questionable.

Prediction

Lynx in two games. Minnesota just has too many offensive weapons, and the team is very focused after having come up short last season.

OTHER MATCHUPS * if necessary

West semifinal: Phoenix (19-15) vs. Los Angeles (24-10)

Games: Thursday, Saturday, Monday*.

At a glance: These two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, were the second- and third-best scoring teams in the league this season. So this figures to be an up-tempo, high-scoring affair. Phoenix G Diana Taurasi was second in the league in scoring (20.3) while Sparks F/C Candace Parker (17.9) was sixth. The Sparks finished the season going 7-3 and tied the Lynx for the league’s best home record (15-2). Phoenix went 9-4 after Russ Pennell replaced Corey Gaines as head coach in early August. Veteran F Penny Taylor is back to full strength, which is key. Rookie C Brittney Griner had an up-and-down rookie season.

Prediction: Sparks in three games

East semifinal: Chicago (24-10) vs. Indiana (16-18)

Games: Friday, Sunday, Tuesday*.

At a glance: This would seem to be a one-sided affair. Indiana, the defending champion, has the experience and is getting healthy. Chicago is in the playoffs for the first time in the team’s eight-year history. Then consider the Fever won the season series 3-1. The Sky is loaded, with Rookie of the Year favorite Elena Delle Donne (18.1 ppg), MVP candidate C Sylvia Fowles (16.3) and G Epiphanny Prince. But Indiana plays stout defense, led by F Tamika Catchings (17.7 ppg). The Fever will turn this into a slow, half-court game. Indiana led the league in defense, allowing just 70.5 points per game. The Sky’s big frontcourt could be a problem, but few coaches are more playoff savvy than Indiana’s Lin Dunn.

Prediction: Indiana in three games.

East semifinal: Atlanta (17-17) vs. Washington (17-17).

Games: Thursday, Saturday and Monday*.

At a glance: Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry might have had her best season. She led the league in scoring for the second consecutive year (21.5 ppg), while posting career highs in rebounding (5.3) and assists (4.4). Atlanta started the season 10-1 but finished 3-12. McCoughtry will need help from C Erika de Souza (12.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg) and G Tiffany Hayes (11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg.). The Mystics, meanwhile, made a stunning turnaround from 5-29 last year to a playoff berth this year under coach Mike Thibault. Atlanta won the first three meetings between these teams, Washington the past two. Washington is led by G Ivory Latta (13.9 ppg, 4.4 apg), who led the league in three-pointers made.

Prediction: Washington in three games

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Oakland 7 Top 12th Inning
Kansas City 7
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 3 3rd Prd
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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