Maya Moore vs. Alana Beard: The former MVP and the Lynx’s most potent perimeter scorer against this season’s Defensive Player of the Year. Unstoppable force meets immovable object. Beard held Moore to 10.7 points per game in three regular-season matchups. But the Moore we’ve seen over the past 10 games, including three in the playoffs, has been vintage.
Rebekkah Brunson vs. Candace Parker: Kind of like Moore vs. Beard, only reversed. Yes, last season Nneka Ogwumike was the league MVP. But this team still goes as Parker goes. Brunson, meanwhile, is Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve’s go-to post defender. An aggressive player who tries to deny the ball, Brunson will have to be careful not to get into foul trouble against Parker, who is famous for coaxing calls.
Point guard vs. point guards? Sparks point guard Odyssey Sims faces the 1-2 punch of Lindsay Whalen and Renee Montgomery. Who will have the edge when it comes to dribble penetration and preventing it? Sims took the place of the departed Kristi Toliver and has added a dynamic element to the Sparks’ game. Whalen, meanwhile, is playing her best basketball of the season.
Why the Lynx will win
1. Aggressive Augustus: After Reeve made sure to keep Seimone Augustus rested during the regular season, she was let loose in the playoffs. The result: In three games vs. Washington, Augustus averaged 19.0 points and shot 63.4 percent.
2. Fowles first: Sylvia Fowles has been with the Lynx since mid-2015, and she won finals MVP months after joining the team that season. But she has been a different player this year. She’s the MVP and the Sparks have to stop her, first.
3. Good timing: After missing the final 12 regular-season games because of a broken left hand, Whalen worked the rust off in her first preseason game. But she was very good, especially in the fourth quarter, in Games 3 and 4 vs. Washington.
4. Moore’s next level: Good all year, Moore elevated her play as the season progressed. At her best, along with an MVP center and an aggressive Augustus? Add, stir, repeat.
Why the Sparks will win
1. Been here, done that: The Sparks know what it’s like to win, both in Minnesota when it counts and on the biggest stage. L.A. won the opener and the finale at Target Center last year.
2. Poised Parker: Parker has been a great player for years and has two MVP awards to show for it. But she may be playing her best basketball ever this season, with the combination of points (16.9), rebounds (8.4) assists (4.3) and her best leadership ever.
3. MVP vs. MVP: Last year’s MVP, Ogwumike, knows how to play when the most is at stake. She averaged 15.3 points and 10.0 rebounds as the Sparks dominated in the post vs. Phoenix. And she did have that rather big putback at the end of Game 5 last year.
4. They’re hot: The Lynx have won six straight entering this series, but the Sparks have won 10 straight. That includes a late-season victory over the Lynx that forced Minnesota to win its final three regular-season games to keep the top seed.