MINNEAPOLIS -- A familiar and star-studded cast headlines the Western Conference Finals, with the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx meeting for the third straight year to go with their inaugural playoff duel in 2011. However, the subplot is not quite the same as previous meetings; in 2013, Minnesota was a clear favorite to win the championship, and Phoenix held that standing last year. This time around, the winner could be a potential underdog in the Finals, especially if New York wins the East, but the first item of business is getting to the championship round.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A defensive duel in Game One of the Western Conference semifinals between the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx worked in Minnesota's favor, with the Lynx holding serve at home Friday for a 67-65 win. Now, an injury-plagued team thought to be prone to an upset has a chance to sweep Round One as the series moves to the Pyramid Long Beach Sunday afternoon. (The Sparks' usual home court at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was booked for the Emmy's.)
Math did not favor the Minnesota Lynx in Sunday night's 75-71 loss to the New York Liberty at Target Center.
With Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen out due to injury and the remaining roster featuring several inexperienced players, only seven players took the floor for Minnesota (21-11). Despite losing Brittany Boyd for the rest of the season to a wrist fracture, New York (22-9) still featured 10 players in their rotation, and that depth won out in a defensive duel at the end of the game.
The Minnesota Lynx were thin at guard in Friday night's match with the Atlanta Dream at Target Center, but their tenacity was too thick to crack, as they cruised to an 86-70 win.
Minnesota guard Anna Cruz did not play due to an ankle sprain she suffered in Wednesday's game against Los Angeles. Renee Montgomery took her spot in the starting lineup and delivered her most dazzling display of distribution this season, getting six points and nine assists.
Wednesday night's game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx at Target Center featured something old and something new.
The old was another duel between Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker, the top two picks from the 2008 WNBA Draft. The new was a change in scenery for Fowles, taking part in her first game for the Lynx. Parker also appeared for the first time in 2015 after a leave of absence for the first half of the season.
Entering Saturday night's game between the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, Brittney Griner was the focal point, returning from a seven-game suspension for her domestic violence incident with then-fiancé Glory Johnson in April.
Minnesota's defense stole the headline for the game, applying a stingy sort for a 71-56 win. The Lynx (7-2) forced 20 turnovers that led to 24 points, thanks to fluent reading of passing lanes and a few swipes at Mercury (3-5) players who were stumped by a rejuvenated squad.
With last year's WNBA Championship Phoenix Mercury team dismantled, the Minnesota Lynx seemed the obvious choice to replace them in the dominating spot.
In an offseason that saw numerous trades and a year so far that features many key player absences due to overseas committments, the Lynx are one of the few squads where all but one on the roster is present. They are arguably the deepest team in the league, and their core starters have played together for years, collecting two league titles in the last four seasons.
Anyone who successfully predicted that Tricia Liston would be the game's high scorer in Thursday night's contest between the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx should consider being a psychic.
For Liston, her career-high 15 points foretold a 94-70 win for the Lynx at Target Center. The second-year small forward from Duke had made just one of eight three-pointers in the first two games of the season. On Thursday, Liston was off to another rough start, but after calming herself and squaring up properly, her long-distance stroke caught Seattle (1-2) unprepared.
*Eliminated in Western Conference Finals by Phoenix
The Minnesota Lynx have emerged as the preseason favorite to win the 2015 WNBA championship, if only because they have managed to avoid the melodrama enveloping other teams during a highly tumultuous off-season period. The Lynx acted quickly when they learned Janel McCarville would sit out for the season, making a trade with the Sun to bring Asjha Jones on board.