The WNBA Semifinals featured the league's four best teams: tee Los Angeles Sparks, Connecticut Sun, Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics. These teams finished 1-4 in the standings and the two series had two interesting trajectories from start to finish.
The Sparks and Sun tilt was a bit of an upset, seeing as Connecticut was labeled "a team of role players" by an analyst. The team used that as motivation, sweeping the Sparks and capping off a trip to the Finals with a 22-point drubbing that left Los Angeles full of questions. Sun guard Courtney Williams stands out, bringing infectious energy and, as she put it, buckets. She took major exception to the role players comment, mentioning it a couple times when being interviewed. The Sparks struggled offensively, particularly in the backcourt. They forced sporadic play from Chelsea Gray and others. This frustration came to a tipping point where Sparks head coach Derek Fisher only played star forward Candace Parker for 11 minutes in an elimination game. Her disappointment was palpable as she could only watch as the Sparks' season ended. Connecticut moved on.
In the other semifinal, Washington sprinted ahead 2-0 in the series, winning a close Game 1 and more dominant Game 2. Emma Meesseman shot really well -- a staple of the whole team, which led the league in field goal percentage. In Game 3, Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer allowed second year guard Kelsey Plum to run the show more, giving her more freedom to make decisions for herself and others. The Aces also sought to get their All-Star post players involved. Frequent paint touches for Liz Cambage and A'ja Wilson and improved defense allowed Vegas to stave off elimination for one game, with some highly entertaining trash talk. The Mystics ended the series two nights later (with an absolutely brilliant response to Cambage), and here we are with this Finals matchup.
Connecticut beat Washington twice this year, and seem to have the defensive tenacity to bother some of the Mystics players. In addition, the Sun are playing with a swagger that is infectious. It's led by the aforementioned Williams, who seems to be the team's emotional leader. Her moxie spreads and the Sun players are playing with a proverbial chip on their shoulders, amplified by comments I mentioned earlier.
This makes for a compelling series because the Mystics have been the best team in the W all year. Through several nagging injuries, especially to veteran point guard Kristi Tolliver, they were spectacular.
Look for the clash in styles to play a big part in determining the outcome of these games. If the game is high-scoring, the Mystics are favored. If it becomes a defensive struggle, Connecticut have shown the grit necessary to pull those games out. Beginning on Sunday, we should be in for a lovely basketball treat. Enjoy the series, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.