The second round single-elimination playoff games are in the books. One game was a rout, while the other came down to the last minute. Let’s talk about the first game. Connecticut controlled the L.A. Spark from the start and choked them out in an ugly game that was never really close. The Sun started FAST (22-8 after the first) and the Spark never caught up, as Connecticut won handily 73-59. Super disappointing for Los Angeles, who never really put it together this year, and the #7 seed Sun move on to play Las Vegas.
The second game was tight. The Minnesota Lynx and the Phoenix Mercury went AT IT in a see saw battle that saw the Mercs control much of the game, but the Lynx -- behind Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield’s 17 -- came back late to take it in the final minute 80-79. Phoenix had multiple possessions in the final minute to take the lead but their luck ran out, and Minnesota now will move on to play the heavy favorite Seattle Storm.
We’re taking a WNBA Playoff 2-2 ATS record into the semifinals. The best of three games begin on Sunday, so let’s break down the match ups.
Connecticut is the real surprise team in the semis. The opening line has Las Vegas -6.5 (o163.5) and those aren’t surprising odds; the lines haven’t moved since early Friday morning. Both teams are as healthy as they’ve been all year. The Sun started the season dead in the water, but resurrected the season halfway through, and are now surging. Led by DeWanna Bonner, who has a pair of double doubles in the playoffs, and Alyssa Thomas, who had 17-13 while dominating the Spark, don’t sleep on the Sun (they were WNBA runner ups last year although they lost 3 starters). Las Vegas has been one of the two best teams in the bubble since the start. Led by WNBA MVP A’Ja Wilson, who wanted this year to be HER year, Aces have the 9th most efficient offense in WNBA HISTORY, including averaging 42.7 points in the paint -- a WNBA record. They are TOUGH down low. Angel McCoughtry, the Aldon Smith of the WNBA, has been terrific, and flanked by Jackie Young and forward DeArica Hamby, the two time WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, this offense is terrific. They also are a match up NIGHTMARE for the Sun, who are good defensively but I think lack the toughness to bang. But the thing about the Sun? They’re survivors. They hang in. It’s hard to spot them 6.5 points, so this is a tougher game to call than it looks. The over is something to look at as well.
THE PICK: Aces -6.5
Minnesota moves on to play the favorite Seattle Storm. Seattle opened at -5.5 (o160.5) which quickly moved up to -6.5 (o162.0). The Lynx have been led all year by Dangerfield, the lowest drafted player to ever win Rookie of the Year. They also get Sylvia Fowles back for this series, which is a HUGE addition. She'll add to a potent offense led by Odyssey Sims, Rachel Banham, Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas. This team is no joke, and as Cheryl Reeve just won her 3rd WNBA Coach of the Year award, you know they’ll be prepared. But Seattle is just so damn good. While the Storm have benefited greatly from the spectacular return of Breanna Stewart, this team lives and dies by Sue Bird and her gimpy knee. Storm missed a ton of time this season, and in almost every game she missed, the Storm struggled. Jewell Lloyd has been solid and Natasha Howard has been good as well. Alysha Clark has played lock down defense all year.
THE PICK: Storm -6.5
I’ll be posting picks for each of the remaining games over the course of the semis and finals, so as always, let these women make money for you!