Let's see: The Seattle Storm have dominated the league this season, sealing their status as top seed in the Western Conference in late July and carrying an impressive 28-6 record into the playoffs. Despite a roster packed with veteran talent, the Sparks have been one of the league's biggest disappointments this season, barely scraping into the playoffs last week with an embarrassing 13-21 record (and then thanks only to holding the tie-breaker over an equally bad Minnesota Lynx team).
Seattle's roster includes perennial MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, arguably the best player in the world, and Sue Bird, one of the world's best point guards. All of their players are healthy and well rested heading into the playoffs. Los Angeles fields only nine active players, having lost its star, Candace Parker, to shoulder surgery 10 games into the season, and Betty Lennox, MVP of the 2004 WNBA Finals, to knee surgery a weak later.
Seattle has earned home court advantage throughout the playoffs and is a perfect 17-0 at home this season. Los Angeles hasn't done all that well at home this season (8-9) and is a whole lot worse on the road (5-12).
Seattle swept its regular-season meetings with Los Angeles, 5-0.
Is there a whole lot more to say about the upcoming Western Conference semifinal series between these two teams set to begin Wednesday night?
Probably not. But then again, the Sparks traveled to the den of the beast last Saturday and came within a single point of spoiling the Storm's perfect home record, as the Storm held on by the skin of their teeth for a 76-75 victory on Fan Appreciation Night.
For the Sparks, it was just another "L" in a season that has seen too many of them. For the Storm, it was a shot across the bow, a warning: However bad its record might be, Los Angeles, the team that has swept them out of the playoffs in the first round for the past two years, is not a team to be trifled with.
How many of you projected, prior to the start of the season, that the Washington Mystics (who have never before finished first in a WNBA regular season) would end the season as the top seed in the 2010? Not this scribe. I slotted them in fifth!
The Mystics started out slowly (4-3 in May) as they adjusted to the loss of star Alana Beard and addition of free agent Katie Smith. They stood at 13-10, coming off a three-game losing streak, on July 30 when they won at Indiana to start a 9-2 run down the stretch. They won their last six games and captured the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference with the tie-breaker over the New York Liberty. That takes a lot of guts!
Conversely, the Atlanta Dream, whom the Mystics will take on in the opening round of the WNBA Eastern Conference playoffs, returned the line-up with which they finished most of the latter half of the 2009 season. In a year when a lot of teams had to adjust to major roster changes to start the 2010 season, the Dream started out of the gate at 6-0.
But as other teams began to gel together, and concurrently learned how to play Atlanta, wins became tougher to come by. The Dream finished the season 4-6, winning only twice in August and dropped from first to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
But as players and coaches will be quick to tell you, the record reverts to 0-0 once the post-season gets under way. How are these two teams likely to match up in the playoffs?