It was difficult to hear Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve on the phone. She was still in Washington, D.C., hours after the Lynx had advanced to the WNBA Finals with a three-game sweep of the Mystics, and she was surrounded by a bunch of family and friends who had come to town for the game.
The celebration was still on.
“Big crowd,” she said. “About 20 people. We’ll have a bit to eat, then go meet with the team.”
There’s a lot to talk about. The rematch everybody has been waiting for has happened. The Lynx will open their best-of-five finals against the Los Angeles Sparks at Williams Arena next Sunday.
The Sparks, who beat Phoenix 89-87 on Candace Parker’s layup with 2.9 seconds left, won the 2016 title on the Target Center court in the closing seconds of Game 5 on a Nneka Ogwumike put-back.
If NBA fans waited through a whole season to see a Cleveland-Golden State rematch, WNBA fans have been waiting for this one, too.
But, Reeve said, revenge will not be high on the list as the Lynx prepare for their sixth finals in seven seasons. “I haven’t heard us taking it that way,” she said. “The reason why you don’t hear it is because last season doesn’t have a bearing on the here and now.”
Still, seconds later, Reeve relented. A little. “It would be fair to say, and I suspect the players would say, being back in the finals and playing the team that won the championship on their floor? How could you not have a strong feeling about that?”
The Lynx and Sparks finished with the top two records, only one game apart; the Lynx had to win their final three regular-season games to clinch the top seed.
L.A. won the season series 2-1, with Lindsay Whalen missing both losses because of a broken left hand.
Both teams have a slew of All-Stars. The Sparks have defensive player of the year in Alana Beard, the Lynx the MVP in Sylvia Fowles. Parker had 21 points Sunday, as did Moore for the Lynx. A week out, it seems the Beard-Maya Moore matchup might be the key to the series.
“I’m thrilled for this team to be in the finals for the sixth time in seven years,” Reeve said. “This is a group that knows how to get this done. I suspect they’re feeling, we don’t want to get this far and not win the darn thing.”
These finals are exactly what the league and broadcast partner ESPN were looking for when they changed the playoff format last year — a way to get the two best teams in the finals, no matter the conference.
Reeve said while the team prepares, the business side will do all it can to pack Williams Arena. “I want every spot in that Barn filled,” she said. “We need all hands on deck. We have to win our home games. We do that, we’re WNBA champs.’’