Western Conference finals, Game 1
7 P.M. VS. phoenix • Target Center • TV: ESPN2, 106.1 FM
Lynx update: This is the third consecutive year — and the fourth time in five years — that these two teams are meeting in the conference finals. The Lynx swept the Mercury in 2011 and 2013. Last season Minnesota’s three-year run of making the league finals was ended by Phoenix, which won the third and deciding game in Phoenix spurred by star G Diana Taurasi. This season Taurasi isn’t playing, but most of the other main characters in the rivalry are. Phoenix won the season series 3-2, with two of those three Mercury victories by double figures. But the Lynx won both games at Target Center, including a 71-61 game Aug. 30. The Lynx won both home games vs. Los Angeles in the three-game conference semifinals, improving the team’s home playoff record to 18-2, including 17-1 in coach Cheryl Reeve’s tenure. F Maya Moore averaged 26.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals vs. the Sparks. G Seimone Augustus, who returned after a month off because of a foot sprain, averaged 15.7 points. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the series was the surging play of G Lindsay Whalen, who averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists the last two games of the series.
Mercury update: Phoenix has the edge in rest, having ousted Tulsa in two games in which C Brittney Griner averaged 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8 blocks per game. She is part of a dangerous frontcourt that includes DeWanna Bonner (17.5 ppg vs. Tulsa) and Candice Dupree (10.0). In four games vs. the Lynx this season, Griner averaged 12.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocks, including a nine-block effort Aug. 30. Bonner has been especially hard on the Lynx, averaging 18.2 points in five games this season. The Mercury emerged from the two-game sweep of Tulsa as the highest-scoring (89.5) and best defensive (61.0) team in the playoffs. Though the backcourt isn’t a Phoenix strength, G Marta Xargay Casademont (6.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) and G Monique Currie (9.5 ppg) have played better in the postseason.